“...American Novelist...” by Julie Phillips
Some Books I've Liked
This list is not “my favorite books.” It’s just a list of books I’ve read or re-read, recently, that I liked and wanted to tell people about. It’s extremely incomplete and completely random. If you or I enjoy it, I will add to it from time to time.
American Poetry: The Twentieth Century: Volume One, Henry Adams to Dorothy Parker (The Library of America). I have been reading this for months, a few poems at a time. It’s a fine collection, admirably printed and bound. A real keeper.
Seeing, by José Saramago. A sequel to his amazing novel Blindness. Saramago is not easy to read. He punctuates mostly with commas, doesn’t pararaph often, doesn’t set off conversation in quotes —; mannerisms I wouldn’t endure in a lesser writer; but Saramago is worth it. More than worth it. Transcendently worth it. Blindness scared me to death when I started it, but it rises wonderfully out of darkness into the light. Seeing goes the other way and is a very frightening book.
Other Saramagos I particularly love:
The Cave, a troubling parable of consumerism, a vision of the Ultimate Mall. The main characters are vivid, likable, ordinary people, which is rare in parables. The dog is great. All Saramago’s dogs are great.
The Stone Raft (of which the Spanish made a charming movie.) The idea is that Europe slowly comes apart at the Pyrenees, so that Spain and Portugal go drifting off on a collision course with America...
(It could be argued that José Saramago is the only science fiction writer to have been awarded a Nobel Prize. Or, since William Golding got one, that Saramago is the best science fiction writer to have been awarded a Nobel Prize. But then, what is science fiction? Gee, has anybody ever asked that question?)
Changing Ones, by Will Roscoe. An examination of how gender has been constructed in Native American societies. Responsibly researched, very well written, generous in spirit, never oversimplifying a complex subject, this is a wonderfully enlightening book.
The City of Your Final Destination, by Peter Cameron. A nice but hapless Iranian-Canadian graduate student in Kansas has to go to Uruguay to get permission to write a biography. Funny and touching and a fine love story.
Age of Bronze: The Story of the Trojan War. I: A Thousand Ships, and II: Sacrifice by Eric Shanower. A graphic novel —; the first two volumes of a projected series. The drawing is excellent, the language lively, and the research awesome. Shanower goes back to the very origins of the war to follow the early careers of the various heroes —; Agamemnon and Menelaus, Achilles, Odysseus, Hector, Paris, Aeneas, and their families, parents, wives, lovers, children... Thus, by the end of Book Two, the actual siege of Troy, which the Iliad tells one part of, is yet to begin. I see a looming problem: the battles (of which there have been a good many already) are visually all alike, and there’s endlessly more to come —; battle scenes in Homer are brutally monotonous and interminable (as war is). But these two volumes are visually and narratively varied, and give a fascinating backgrounding and interpretation to the great stories.
Copyright © 2006 by Ursula K. Le Guin