Reading a Novel – Writer’s Block Edition

Writers blockNope, the novel is not going anywhere. In a desperate attempt to jumpstart my recalcitrant brain, I went to the library a couple of days ago and picked up a bag full of books. My method, if I am not picking a known author, is to open the book mid-way and see if I can tolerate the language…a necessary ritual, given my declining attention span.

Well, this time my fishing was spectacular. Here are the gems I found.

- Blasphemy by Sherman Alexie: If there’s any justice in the world, this man will win a Nobel Prize one day. These short stories, chronicling the un-moored life of Native Americans, are so spare and beautiful that each is a master class in writing. The matter of fact wretchedness of the lives in these stories make for a somewhat grim experience, but I find it difficult to stop reading. Alexie’s keen observations of reservation life and the impact it has on its inhabitants makes you realize that slavery still exists in the US, insidiously cloaked in the trappings of welfare and reparation.

Alexie had a pretty eventful and traumatic childhood, which probably gave him a heightened sensitivity to suffering, but he doesn’t wallow in it. Each page has a paragraph or two that makes you go “Wow” in admiration. If you love to read, and are not daunted by bleak writing, you must, must read this author.

- The Doctor of Thessaly by Anna Zouroudi: Now that the Ladies Detective Agency books are beginning to pall a little, I’m really fortunate to have found this series, featuring fat detective Hermes Diaktoros. Lovely comfort food for mystery lovers, in the vein of Miss Marple adventures. There are only three books in the series so far, but I am going to find the others and then wait patiently for the new ones. Zouroudi is also a minimalistic writer and is able to sketch her Greek characters with a sharp pen.

- The Girl in Blue by P.G. Wodehouse: I thought I’d read all of Wodehouse’s oeuvre, but I could not recall this one. But the real reason I picked it up was its ancient plastic cover and the faded, silverfish-eaten, brittle pages inside – I had a flashback to the musty libraries of my childhood, mostly stocked by the British before they left India, full of holey books and the smell of mold. Heaven! The Girl in Blue is pretty formulaic Wodehouse, but still a lot of fun and, unlike my reading style as a kid when plot was all that mattered, I read this time to savor the punny style.

Two other random choices were Fleur DeLeigh’s Life of Crime by Diane Leslie and The Spare Wife by Alex Witchel. Each is a satirical peek into the life of the rich and glamorous, one in New York and the other in Beverly Hills, and I’ll review when I finish reading them.

 

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