Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro
The Corrections - Jonathen Franzen
Since an integral part of the JT experience is hearing me blather on about books, I thought I'd add this to the blog. Not to worry, though, I won't be adding all of my annoying little quirks to this fount of stream-of-crapciousness.
I'd first heard of the novel via a review in Time and was reminded of it when Time listed their top 100 English-language novels. Since Poisonwood Bible wasn't on the list, I wanted to read a few of the recent novels that made the list in its place.
First, Never Let Me Go is no Poisonwood Bible. It's not even The Handmaiden's Tale, a clear influence on the world he has created. It's a well-written story about hope, love and what makes a person human, but it leaves some gaping questions, especially of religion and politics, left unasked, much less unanswered . While Atwood also left many of these issues alone, here they cause a sense of disbelief as key details are left out. To make matters worse, the quick end to the novel tries to wrap up the loose threads while simultaneously explaining the state of the world they live in. An admirable goal, but after ignoring or dodging the issues for 250 pages, why try to wrap it up in 20? The strong point of the novel is definitely the structure of narrative, as the main character tries to sort through memories of events from early childhood to her present age in the 30s. It rings true and allows surprises to be unveiled as she thinks about them, but it also shows a maddening disinterest in their situation that prevents us from learning more about their outlook and their world. A good read, but ultimately disappointing. And definitely not top 100-worthy.
The Corrections, on the other hand, was great. Hilarious at times, disturbing at others, it looks at a family filled with a variety of lunacies, their personal travails and how they deal these and with each other. A fun read, it's definitely worth the time investment. While the ending gets a bit sappy, it stands out as a first-rate farce -- far superior to Confederacy of Dunces and Vernon God Little, two highly-regarded "literary" comedies. Still, though, how did this surpass the Poisonwood Bible (or even The Power of One)?