books read: labyrinths, big and small

My summer reading has continued. a Pynchon novel, the last in a children's trilogy I began in the spring and, most recently, a collection of stories by David Foster Wallace. In other news, I reorganized my fiction bookshelf so that all of the books on it are books I have read, except for a small section where there was still room at the bottom which now contains hardcovers I have not read. This brings some organization between "stack" and "shelves". The stack is now all books I haven't read. Now, the next problem will occur if I haven't come upon another bookshelf before I finish more books than can fit on the bookshelf I have the "read" fiction on! And when I do get another, will I keep the read/unread separated still? Hm...

books read: July

V. by Thomas Pynchon.

I bought a bumper sticker from that says "My Other Car is a Pynchon Novel" and decided that I couldn't put it anywhere (not my car, anyway, but anywhere) until I read another Pynchon novel. After finishing Moby Dick, I wanted something not-as-long, so I looked past Gravity's Rainbow and chose V.. I am not really going to tell you anything about this novel that the back of it cannot tell you; instead, I am going to tell you of the experience of reading it which, to me, has added much to the definition of The Experience of Reading Pynchon.

I started reading the book on the beach. When I got home, I had to turn back all of the pages I read and reread them. The pace of his novels is very quick, but if you read them too quickly, you miss details. Pynchon is a novelist of details and a novelist of mazes. He will lead you down failed paths again and again, and it is up to you to determine the importance of his labyrinth's details that, in the end, do not solve the mystery of the plot line. His characters are mainly caricatures of people, though their humanity does seep through the ink on occasion.

In the end, I was not sure if I was satisfied with my ability to read this book, comprehend it and appreciate it for all that Pynchon packed into it. I felt like I needed to read it again, but I wasn't sure if I will ever want to. I know who I think Pynchon needed V. to be, but I wanted more about one of the dead ends than I wanted to remember more about who she turned out to be.

I also did some readingtweeting again:

reading #Pynchon's V. over sushi: "Anything that can get drunk, he reasoned, must have some soul. Perhaps this is all "soul" means." p. 78

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma by Trenton Lee Stewart

My friend has been lending me these, and gave me this one while I was in the middle of Pynchon. It was a breath of air from the heavy reading I've been doing lately. The only part I don't like about this trilogy is that it's over! I found some of my GRE words in this novel (I've been studying) which is always refreshing in a kids' book. The earlier one is exposed to words, the earlier they will know their definitions. Way to go, Stewart.

Girl with Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace

I have always wanted to read a book by this man. I am a girl with curious hair, if you will excuse self-complimenting (if you would consider it that), so I have always wanted, too, to read this book. After his death, his books were impossible to come across at Strand Books where I worked in NYC, so I never got around to owning a David Foster Wallace book. My roommate's favorite short story is the first story in this book. Since I love Jeopardy, and the story involves Jeopardy, she wanted me to read it. I did. It was great. I decided to read the rest of the book.

The problem ensues here. The next story, "Luckily The Account Representative Knew CPR" wasn't very good. I also have a problem with Wallace's lack of proper grammar, but I do try to put these things aside. I read on. The title story was more intriguing, but I didn't care too much about the characters, even by the end. The following story, "Lyndon", I liked. "John Billy", next, I had to skip. When I came back to it, I thought it was one of the better ones. "John Billy", "Little Expressionless Animals" and "Lyndon" are by far my favorite stories in this book. The rest, especially the longest one put at the end, were boring. And the last one bordered on unreadable.

Maybe meta-meta(-meta?) fiction was cool once. Maybe it was new and fun to read. The only part of the past story I liked was when Wallace made a graduate-school-style joke about Pater and two other critics. And, to be fair to my opinion of how much I disliked this story, I laughed out loud when I read that part-- but can't even remember where on the page it is. When I like a part in a book-- and I think a lot of people are this way-- you can remember seeing it on the page. I can't remember this time.

Many of the stories I didn't like were gimmicky. This book made me rethink the genre of the short story. Is there even a pay-off if the whole story turns out to be a gimmick? I had the same problem with this book as I did with Dave Eggers' How We Are Hungry, though I assure you I have talked a lot more trash on Eggers than I ever will on Wallace. I at least liked some of the stories in Girl with Curious Hair. Oh, Dave Eggers, I'd apologize, but...

these are some things you can buy @ including the Pynchon sticker I discuss above. yay.


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