February 19, 2013

Reading List

On the chair, on the desk, in the computer case....

True Grit, by Charles Portis
Have you ever read this novel? Wow. The determined, judgmental, and self-righteous Mattie Ross is a narrator so powerful she overshadows even Rooster Cogburn, the half-broken U.S. Marshal she hires to find the man who killed her father. The story sweeps right along and Portis never falters in his use of Mattie's distinctive voice. A guy in his forties pulling off first person narration from an 1880s teenaged girl is quite a feat. I'm a guy in my forties and I wouldn't touch that job.

The IRA: A History, by Tim Pat Coogan
No topic in all the topics written about by humans can top Irish politics for complexity. Read Irish history and you'll see that there are more Irish political parties than actual Irish people. Then half of them use Gaelic (Irish) names for their group/movement/party/organization and that doubles the confusion unless, I suppose, you're from Ireland. Nonetheless, Coogan provides as much guidance as humanly possible and brings a powerful storytelling gift to the extremely complex topic and an immense cast of characters.

Miracles of Life, by J.G. Ballard
Ballard is one of my influences, and I was surprised and pleased to see this posthumous autobiography. A physician by training, Ballard began his career writing hallucinatory science fiction and some of that, as well as classics like High Rise, have earned respect as literature. As a boy, Ballard lived in Singapore under the Japanese occupation--a time he wrote about in his memoir Empire of the Sun--and in his writing, at least, his view of humanity is not a rosy one. Not that I'm surprised. I've read seven or eight Ballard novels and a bushel of short stories and don't remember ever cracking a smile. His reputation continues to grow in the U.K., and though less known here, a few studies of his work are out there.