Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Book Report: "Deception," by Philip Roth

DeceptionDeception by Philip Roth

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Philip Roth is a good writer, and I'm sure from a technical standpoint this is an excellent book. But as a nonacademic, the post-modernist structure of this book gets to be a bit much.

The book purports to be a series of conversations between an author, named Philip; an English woman who may or may not have been his mistress, a Czechoslovakian woman who may or may not have been a prostitute, and Philip's wife. The wife discovers the book and is convinced it describes actual affairs Philip has had, although he denies that they occurred anywhere except in his mind. After the confrontation with the wife, the conversations go back to the English woman and Philip discussing what he told the wife. The book leaves the reader to form his own opinion about whether any of the conversations actually occurred or are made up in Philip Roth's head.

I can take a little post-modernism, but by the end of this book, I was longing for just a straight forward story by an author who doesn't insert himself into the middle of it.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Insincere bigotry

This is the best discussion I have seen anywhere on the gay marriage debate, and how the evidence in the recent California trial should shut up any reasonable opponent of gay marriage. The post is called Insincere bigotry and is published on a blog called slacktivist

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book Report: "Zeitoun," by Dave Eggers

ZeitounZeitoun by Dave Eggers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Don't read this book if you don't want to be upset by the U.S. government. This is a nonfiction book in which Eggers follows what happened to a Muslim family in New Orleans before, during and after the Katrina Hurricane. The husband, a building contractor, insisted on staying in New Orleans during the storm, sending his wife and children to stay with relatives in Baton Rouge. He was well-prepared and in the immediate aftermath of the storm, he was able to assist many people and animals with a canoe he owned. A week later, however, after National Guard and police from other places were sent in to maintain "order," things turned chaotic for him. He wound up getting arrested in his own home, held in a Guantanamo-style cage for several days and then put in a prison. He was not permitted to call his family nor a lawyer; he was not told the charges against him, and he was held without access to even a judge for three weeks before he was released.

Eggers is an excellent writer and this book contains no hint of the self-importance that turned me off about his first book, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. This book actually is a heartbreaking work of staggering genius and it's not about Eggers.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Book Report: "Letting Go," by Philip Roth

Letting GoLetting Go by Philip Roth

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another extraordinary Roth book. He excels at showing, not telling. It is a psychological study, in the Henry James tradition (from what I've been told about Henry James, I haven't read much of him,)set in Chicago, mostly, about a trio of young people who become involved with each other while at the Iowa Writers' Workshop and then wind up teaching at the University of Chicago. As always in Roth, being Jewish, is a big part of the book. What I like about Roth is he describes situations and conversations and let's the reader figure out motivations rather than spelling them out. The book is a little short on plot, but very interesting.