Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Book I Admired for its Body

I have other plans for this blog, I swear.

It's just right now...my whole life is revolving around books. I had a huge pile--probably 40+--of books I hadn't read yet (I know, I know, there are others out there with way more than that; my problem wasn't nearly so advanced as some) but to me that number was still a disgrace. So I have been concentrating on reading and reading and reading, especially this summer--flying through all these books, hoping to get to the end of the pile before the end of the year. (Fun fact: I found a receipt in one of the books I read earlier this year dated from 2010...yeah, that's when I bought it.)

And now I'm down to only thirteen! Everybody say, YAY!

But unfortunately that means I only have one thing on my mind, and consequently only one thing to blog about: more books. I haven't even been writing this summer (silly of me since summer is when I have the most time, but then I get lazy and writing looks a lot like work, and it's easier to pick up someone else's book than to think about my own). But just because I haven't been writing, doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about writing; it is both a blessing and a curse to pick up a book and read it as a writer; it's an entirely different experience, I tell you. And there are some books where the writing is noncommittal but I focus on the story; there are other books where the writing itself is what grabs me; and always a mixture of the two.

And then there are the books that captivate, fascinate, intrigue, and impress me, based solely on their craft, their construct, alone. It's like admiring a man for his body over his personality , forsaking the face for the love of those sweet, sweet abs.

Which isn't to say that a book with a great body doesn't also have a great personality. In fact, the one I'm thinking of right now is quite the opposite--it's got it all. A fascinating plot-line, a deep, jarring, sometimes uncomfortable look into the human psyche and what makes us human, as well as some just good stories--but what really gets my heart beating faster with this baby is its execution of all those things.

Want to know which one it is?

World War Z by Max Brooks

If you've seen the movie and think you know what this book is about, forget it. You don't. (Don't get me wrong though, I enjoyed the movie, existing as something separate and unrelated to the novel.) It says it there on the cover--an "oral history"...that is, the entire book is conducted like an interview between the author and men and women who survived the war--and it's not just one person or a group of them, with intertwining stories. They are all separate and different and unique, and the only thing linking them is their encounter with the living dead. It's basically like a collection of short stories, except they're not told in the normal narrative format.

Imagine it: a book without a cohesive story arc (well, there actually is, sort of--Brooks bends the rules but doesn't always break them), without a proper protagonist, without one person to get behind and root for the entire way, and with a barely sentient group of antagonists! Where's the main character? Where's their personal enemy? The one overall goal? The single storyline? None of that exists in this novel! (Is it even a "novel"?)

But it works. Anyone can tell you that. I've barely begun to question why because I can't stop admiring it. I can't imagine what it must have been like trying to write this, each "interview" at a time, separate but related, mismatched and all over the place, each time introducing a new character, a new way of speech and thought, a new setting, a new problem. Sometimes these people aren't even sympathetic or likeable at all, but the book sure is! I'd love to have a nice long chat with Max Brooks about his methods and notes and first drafts and his craft in general. It's a glorious approach, and I love the way he's broken down all the constructs of the traditional narrative.

Want to know a secret? I haven't even finished the book yet. I'm only halfway through. But I was so smitten by the way it was written (oh, rhyme not intended but now that's it's out there it's staying) that I couldn't wait to finish it before I posted about it; I had to tell everyone right now about this book with the beautifully sculpted body. Yowza.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Books I Confused with My Real Life

All right, I know the book challenge thing is over. But that doesn't mean I can't stop posting about books, does it? Certainly not!

Shopaholic Series, by Sophie Kinsella

And I cannot let these books go by without a word of farewell. If you recall Day 31: The Book that Made Me Laugh Out Loud, you will remember me telling you about Becky Bloomwood, of Confessions of a Shopaholic. And I mentioned that I felt a reread coming on--and a reread is what happened, after which I promptly began to work my way through all six of these glorious books, one right after another after another, until the lines between novels blurred, and the lines between her life and mine blurred even more.

I can honestly say as I was reading these novels, my spending went up, because every time I went out I had Becky on the brain, and started to think like her--and she always goes for the purchase (yikes!). I was not merely a reader of these books, I was a part of these people's lives. For example, when I was reading Shopaholic Ties the Knot, I switched my ring to my left hand and pretended it was an engagement ring. And when I was on Shopaholic and Baby, well...

But sadly, I just closed the cover on the last page of the last book (for now) in the series. Sophie Kinsella has left it open for another whirlwind adventure, but the most recent one came out in 2010 and so far I can see no announcements for a seventh, to my utter dismay. Now, at least, I can get my life (and wallet!) back. But no other books I've ever read have ever helped me escape so much as these. And as I reluctantly move on to other books, I feel as if I am losing friends. Goodbye, Becky. Goodbye, Luke. Goodbye, Suze, and Tarkie, and all the rest of you. And thanks so much for letting me spend time, and money, with you.