Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Strictly bookish

Sometimes it pays to give a book a second chance. Several years ago I tried to read Maxine Hong Kingston's Tripmaster Monkey, but I gave up halfway through the first chapter, finding the main character just too annoying for words; this week I've started it again with great delight. Let's hope the delight lasts beyond the first chapter.

Overall, I've been mostly pleased with my light summer reading. Flann O'Brien's The Third Policeman is a joy to read--much more fun than At Swim-Two-Birds--and Michael Cunningham's Specimen Days is likewise pleasant if a bit slight. I picked the Cunningham up on the clearance table at Border's for a dollar, so perhaps others have been similarly struck by the book's lack of depth.

I finally read Jhumpa Lahiri's new collection, Unaccustomed Earth (in hardback! full price!) and I enjoyed the last three linked stories very much, only regretting that Lahiri could not have expanded them into a full-blown novel. The first half of the collection contains some lovely prose and interesting characters, but I was disappointed in the sameness of some characters and situations and the slowness of the pace. I love Lahiri's other works--and, more importantly, my students love them. I have taught both Interpreter of Maladies and The Namesake, and I always have students stating that Lahiri is their new favorite author. It's unusual to find any work of fiction that is equally loved by both professor and students, which led me to expect more from Unaccustomed Earth than it could possibly deliver.

Perhaps a re-reading will change my mind. After all, it's working with Kingston.

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