Monday, January 12, 2009

Read Erdrich's The Porcupine Year and Armitage's Sir Gawain

5. The Right Madness, James Crumley. Fiction 1-9 289

6. The Porcupine Year, Louise Erdrich. Juvenile Fiction 1-10 182

7. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Simon Armitage. Poem 1-12 198

I’ve been playing a lot of computer games lately. The kids bought them for me for Christmas. The oldest is in the industry; has been for the last 10 years. Peggle. Portal. Left 4 Dead. I am obsessed with Portal.

You’re not going to make your goal for 2009, the wife said.

Fool her, I thought. Hey, I’m ahead of schedule, I told her. Ahead of 2008.

Three more books. Two I liked a lot.

First, Crumley’s pulp-ish, noir-ish The Right Madness. Lots of sex, violence and drugs. Guess, I don’t like this genre as much as I thought. It’s so . . . unrelentingly. The alcohol consumption alone would kill Sughrue. Is it too much to ask for ONE character with some small, redeeming quality? Pass on this one.

The Porcupine Year is the third in a series by Louise Erdrich about Omakayas, a 12-year-old Ojibwe girl. I like Erdrich’s writing a lot. This particular book is classed as juvenile fiction, which might cause a lot of adults to pass it by. That’s unfortunate, this is good work.

The best of writing for children balances strong characters with strong narrative. It’s straight forward, dealing with love and loss, with human frailty and that awkward transition from child to adult. Erdrich does it about as well as it can be done.

The Porcupine Year is tender and funny and raises a sense of indignation at the insult – in the word’s strongest sense – imposed on the Ojibwe, in general, and Omakayas’ family, in particular.

If you have a family member of 8 to 12 years of age put this book in their hands, but only after you’ve read it your self.

Simon Armitage’s translation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a wonder. It’s muscular and lively, full of power, yet bursting with an almost palpable delight in the English language. God, I loved this book.

As with most poetry it’s best read aloud. But please read this one.

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