Here’s another round of “What I’ve Been Reading Lately.”
Our Tragic Universe by Scarlett Thomas. Thomas is the author of The End of Mr. Y and Popco. The End of Mr. Y does not have a single dull patch of prose or story in it. I even excerpted a paragraph here. Popco is in my TBR pile. Our Tragic Universe is centered around Meg, a writer who can’t seem to get started on her next book, so what story there is ends up having a lot to do about writing, the writing life, and what exactly constitutes a story. It also meanders a bit too much for my taste, droning a bit here and there about what makes a story a story. Meanwhile, inside my head I was screaming for Meg to leave her total drip of a boyfriend already. But when Meg and the other characters start to act of their own volition (or are forced to act), Thomas’ novel is engaging with plenty of humor, wit, heavy doses of big ideas on art, and interesting characters. Recommended for People Who are Down in the Dumps and are Looking for a Sign from the Universe About What To Do With Themselves.
On Beauty by Zadie Smith. This was a remainder pile pickup from three or four years ago. I can’t remember. I hesitated to crack it open because two friends of mine tried reading White Teeth, but both hated it so much they couldn’t finish it. (Coincidentally, both friends were well-read white women who were writers, fluent in French, and had divorced parents. How that pertains to their inability to finish White Teeth I don’t know. It just seemed interesting to me.) On Beauty is funny, touching, perceptive, and illuminating, about race, class, gender and hypocrisy. It manages to do all that in a story about the collision between two (mostly black) families from the U.S. and the U.K. It is by far one of the best books I have read in a long while. Smith’s prose is a joy to read. Recommended for People Who Love Books.
Plus One by Julie Getzlaff. It most definitely is a long way to the top if you want to rock n’ roll in this novel from a friend of mine (her brother served as best man in my wedding) who blogs over at Foreign Parts. It centers around an American model named Angie Kappel, who might not be right in the head, as she tags along on the European tour of her boyfriend’s band PBJ. PBJ are touring in support of another up-and-coming band named Garbage Head. No four-star hotels, stretch limos, or paparazzi for these two bands. Just rented vans, run-down clubs, struggling musicians and their moody girlfriends, and vending machine food. Recommended for People Who Are Curious About the Rock n’ Roll Lifestyle.