Saturday, August 15, 2015

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk

I know it's been a few years since everyone was talking about Ben Fountain's Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk but I finally got around to reading it this week. It lived up to the hype (which so often doesn't happen that I expect it to not happen). This novel is funny, and sweet, and irreverent, and nasty, and honest, and disturbing, and ultimately hopeful. While Billy Lynn and his Bravo troop are home on leave from a tour in Iraq, they are "treated" to a Dallas Cowboys game that is at once hilarious and pathetic. Fountain uses extremes and uses them well--the poverty Billy comes from, the excess of American football and Americans in general, the equal parts love and hate we have of war and by extension the soldiers who fight in those wars, our mad desire for success at any cost. Our desire to hear that everything, always, is going to be all right. And, to make the novel even more unbelievable, there is a movie executive hanging around the Bravos, promising to tell their story on the big screen. But, as unbelievable and excessive as it all is, it's totally, heartbreakingly believable. 

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Summer Reading

I've been listening to a fair amount of books on CD in my car (right now a novel by David Liss whom I'd never heard of...I'm quite liking it...more on that later). A few weeks ago, I picked up Helene Wecker's The Golum and the Jinni on CD and popped it in my car on the way to work. It was so immediately enchanting that I drove around the block once, twice, reluctant to go in and start my day and leave this fantastical world. I'm not usually one for straight out fantasy or science fiction novels (although sometimes I am) but this book is deeply anchored in universal human experiences. The immigration experience runs as subtext (perhaps not just subtext) throughout the novel, but also the feelings of isolation, oddness, loss, fear, friendship, love, forgiveness of self and others. It's a big book, both literally and emotionally, and a few years ago I'd picked it up to read and couldn't get into it. But, the audio book swept me up and swept me away in exactly the way I want from a book that is part fairy tale, part something else entirely.

As I've said before, I love a good mystery. And summer is the perfect time to sit outside with one. These last few months, it seems people at the library where I work have been all kinds of crazy about Tana French. I'd never read her before, but I picked up The Secret Place and really enjoyed it. This particular novel is set in a girls' boarding school in Ireland. There are the usual cast of characters--a detective usually assigned to Cold Cases, a newish female detective, a protective Matron. And they're all well-drawn and interesting. But the girls are where the novel really crackles and spits. They're teenagers, yes, but French has a handle on how they see the world. These are not innocents. I particularly loved how French uses language to get the reader into a story--pointed sentences, word choice, changing points of view...I found this book captivating.