October 3rd, 2008 by Ellen
Is it safe to talk about books these days? I think it is, although I may be proven wrong.
I just finished Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife, and found it very unsettling, indeed. Like Prep, I thought it was extremely well-observed, without being particularly engaging–or entertaining. But, American Wife was a strange, and puzzling, choice, for a novelist to make. The notion of a stranger publishing an extremely personal and speculative version of a person’s actual life is–I don’t know–unseemly. Rude, even. It will certainly make the author rich, but I’m pretty confident that the author was already rich, so I’m not sure I see the point. I would say that the entire project borders on stalking–except that I think it crossed the border, relocated to a new country entirely, settled down and began to grow crops. (and if you find the Buffy reference in there, you’re good)
I suppose that Primary Colors was an unnecessary novel in a very similar way, but somehow, it seemed less–prurient. Or, maybe just less scatological. Then again, Joe Klein, for all his failings as a pundit, is simply a more compelling writer. I suspect that Ms. Sittenfeld was aiming for Theodore Dreiser–which might have been a damned interesting creative choice, and a really good book–but, ended up with–well–Olivia Goldsmith, instead. (It doesn’t help that the last third of the novel is a rushed blur, and clearly the result of trying to hit a demanding deadline schedule.)
American Wife is worth reading, and–sort of–ambitious, but after I finished it, I was left feeling as though I should go wash my hands.
I’m currently about halfway through Giles Blunt’s By The Time You Read This, which I’m enjoying. A nice, solid book. It won’t reinvent the wheel, but then again, it wasn’t designed to do so.
What else? The Camera, by Ansel Adams. Dense, demanding–and very informative. Actually, I hope to read the entire series, but I’m starting with The Camera. (Here’s a great article about photography, by the way, on an excellent site.) Fletcher Knebel and Charles W. Bailey Il’s surprisingly not-as-dated-as-you-would-think Convention. A book about fishermen called Their Fathers’ Work. Everything the Instructors Never Told You About Mogul Skiing–because, even though such things are probably out of my reach, it can’t hurt to try to improve. Red Sox Rule–for no other reason than because I feel like it.
I haven’t read The War Within yet, but I assume I will, at some point.
And–it scarcely needs saying–but, go, Red Sox!