The following is from my Books I’m Reading page, which I sometimes update. But most times not. Takes time to read books. Then more time to write about them. (You know how it is.)
Most recently I finished Train by Pete Dexter. I read it because my first (as-yet-unpublished) novel is about golf, and Train is the nickname of the 18-year-old black golf caddie and golf prodigy in the book. The book is set in early 1950s Los Angeles, and damned if it ain’t a dangerous place. Danger pervades the book, which makes for an interesting atmosphere. The book probably isn’t as good as Paris Trout, which won him the National Book Award, but then Paris Trout ain’t got no golf in it. Still, Train gets golf right, has some really interesting messages about race relations (the other main characters are a white police officer and his wife), and uses language in a really cool way. Understated, but unique. But violent, this book. Not for the squeamish.
Before that I read Kiran Desai’s The Inheritance of Loss, which is a really good read, though I had an experience with it similar to reading Snow (see the books page for more): reading a complex, sprawling book with lots of characters that’s set (partially) in a foreign country isn’t always the best when you’re on the 15-minute-segments-on-the-train program. Still, I’d recommend it. But if you’re just sniffing around for a well-written novels set in India, I’d read Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things first.
Now, with some reluctance, I’m trying to get into John Irving’s A Prayer for Owen Meany. I read The World According to Garp and Hotel New Hampshire when I was in high school, and loved them both. But I’m having some problems in the first 50 pages of Owen Meany, since I’m busy and lose patience with reading about family backstory and varieties of religious devotion (though important, I suspect, later on). I’m going to float a half-baked idea here: if you live in New England, like Irving does, family background — pedigree — is a big deal. But if you live in the west, like I do, no one cares. So maybe I’m a westerner now, because I don’t.
What are you reading?