Wednesday, September 17, 2008

books of the month

Since joining Facebook, I've gotten a little lazy about posting book reviews on Bread and Bread. I know, I know, you've been crying yourself to sleep every night. Obama better get elected, and Cheryl better post a book review tomorrow or things will just not be okay, you hiccup into your pillow.

Even though I suspect you guys prefer posts with pictures or ones containing stories about the many embarrassments of my youth, hear me out: I do it because books--at least the ones that are not about diets or do not feature Oprah's seal of approval or face on the cover--need every shout-out they can get, and my ego needs to feel powerful in the role of critic.

Facebook has all sorts of booky applications, so lately I've been posting short little reviews of stuff there--there in the social networking wasteland, where you give everything one to five stars and no one knows or cares if you gave something three and a half stars because it was brilliant and new but deeply flawed, or just sort of generally decent.

So I'm part of the five-second-attention-span problem as much as the read-a-book-already solution.

Anyway, because I believe in recycling, I am now posting said reviews here, for all you old-fashioned types who prefer to get your book reviews from blogs just like Grandma used to and not via the Facebook Goodreads application.

Here's what's kept me busy over the past month-ish:
  • Still Water Saints by Alex Espinoza Espinoza has a great eye for detail and a generous literary spirit. Some of the vignettes in this collection of connected short stories touch down lightly, but others are intense--it's impressive that a voice so gentle can also be unblinking.
  • Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld For a book without an obvious plot (and this is not always a detriment in my opinion), Prep was a page turner. No one has captured adolescent insecurity so perfectly as Curtis Sittenfeld. But being inside the teenage mind occasionally felt as suffocating for me as it did for the protagonist. Sometimes when I read authors like Sittenfeld, I wonder what great things would happen if they turned their sharp gazes on matters outside The Self. Hopefully a couple of books down the line....
  • Cruddy by Lynda Barry It was surreal to read this tale of a down-and-out girl on a road trip with her murderous father right after reading Prep, which was all about not making faux pas in the dining hall. I loved Lynda Barry's raw prose and circus-freak stories, but at times this book felt muddy, like one of those dreams where you can't open your eyes all the way.
And--sneak preview!--here's what I'm reading now and liking enough to tell you why before I'm finished:
  • Waylaid by Ed Lin (from cool indie Asian Am publisher Kaya Press) This is a slim and hilarious seemingly autobiographical story of a 12-year-old Chinese American kid whose parents own a cheap motel on the Jersey Shore. He works long hours cleaning up after scuzzy tenants, and he would be predictable or pitiable if not for the fact that he spends all his precious free time beating up 12-year-old assholes at school and reading the porn magazines he finds under hotel mattresses. It's hard to think about child labor laws when said child is busy thinking, "I reread the letters [in Cheri]. Women driving, walking, or sitting alone were dying to get naked and suck and fuck."


Anonymous said...

A late entry to the David Foster Wallace comment...interesting!

Prince Gomolvilas said...

Facebook is for assholes.

(Hey, don't forget to friend me!)

Cheryl said...

J: Thanks for the link. What a great essay/speech. So DFW is basically saying, No, in the end I could not get over myself, but I tried really hard, and it was a tragedy when I failed. And I agree with him.

PG: I know, I know, it's all about Twitter, right? It just sounds like a lot of pressure to be interesting 24 hours a day, when I like to be interesting no more than twice a week.

Peter Varvel said...

I'm so old-fashioned that I prefer to receive your book reviews by separate and individual email messages, just like Great Grandma used to.
I would get so much of my own writing done if it weren't for facebook.

Cheryl said...

Amen to that.

A carrier pigeon will be delivering my next book review directly to your house, sealed with wax.

Anonymous said...

How do you ever manage to read all those books? I am in awe.


Cheryl said...

A lot of 'em are on CD in my car. Also, I'm one of those terrible people you hear about who doesn't read newspapers.