Saturday, June 30, 2007

Review - The Pesthouse by Jim Crace

I suggested this book to one of the two book clubs I attend and, after describing the plot, was met with protestations of "too depressing," "just can't handle something so bleak," and the plaintive wail: "how can you suggest something so dark!" (and this group LOVED Fall on Your Knees.)
Well, contrary to the the opinions of my fellow book groupies, The Pesthouse, is not depressing, as a matter of fact, it's what I like to call a "triumph-of-the-human spirit" story and a very well crafted one at that. I was engaged from the first page in Crace's future, medieval America where anything metal is scavenged, people live in isolated communities, violence controls the roads, and the America we know today is the stuff of oral legend. Groups of travellers stream toward the sea and a promise of a better life in Europe (nice touch - the flow of immigrants reversed) Disease, marauding thieves and slavers pick off the hopeful pilgrims in a landscape littered with twisted remnants of the USA. Crace never tells us what happened to make the country an inhospitable cesspool of chemical horrors, but we don't really need to know.
Margaret and Franklin, two strangers thrown together by pestilence and disaster, begin the trek together and, along their journey through the unknown and the horribly unexpected, find their own dreams. Even in this setting, and the setting is the antagonist, people still have the will to laugh, to love and to hope. It is all very believable.
Recommended - food for thought

Saturday, June 16, 2007

On Chick Lit

When I was younger, my tastes tended toward the more "intellectual" literature. The harder to digest and the more abstruse, the more I hurled my brain into taking it on and then discussing it with similarly pompous friends over spaghetti dinners lit by Chianti-bottle-enshrined candles, and scored by jazz soundtracks.

Now, at a rather ripe age, I have discovered there is no shame in the joys of chick lit. (Better late than never) While the plots all seem to blend together after mass consumption, a healthy dose of chick lit is good for the soul. Nothing wrong with a fairy tale - and it's nice to realize I have not become so cynical at the age of 61 that I can't let myself believe (break out the ruby slippers . . . just wish and tap your heels toether.)

I have a long commute to work and have become addicted to chick lit on CDs. Good companionship for long drives. Jennifer Crusie has become a favorite - her dialogue is witty and fun. BTW, my definition of reading does include listening to unabridged CDs or MP3s - and no, it's not cheating, you're just using a different sense to absorb. So, my blog will be a mix of written and audio, nonfiction, chick lit, mysteries, a dash of horror, and even some"serious" literature (some of which is forced on me by the other members of my two bookclubs. I like to pick and chose my own serious stuff. ) Don't get me started on Ann-Marie MacDonald.