Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book it 2012!

Cold, but not as cold as you think it should be: the definition of a Southern winter.  I'm running through mine, guzzling its exhaust, gunning it dry.  No: it's already dry:  High of fifty degrees, brown ground, no snow.

In this middling purgatory of a season, a young girl's  human's thoughts turn to books!  Books will get you out of almost anything, and they'll do it with admirable extremes of temperature! Bring on the sere sentences, the heated dialogue, the boiling plot!

So here, without further ado, my least temperate, most absorbing reads of 2012!  Rescue me from Winter Lite and reply with your own!

1)Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel

I'm not done with this one so I probably shouldn't even list it, but OH HECK WHY NOT IT'S SO GOOD!  Mantel writes bleak, yet oblique prose -a handy trick- and there's nothing colder than the machinations of the Tudor court!  Mantel introduces us to Thomas Cromwell, a man for all seasons- oh, no, wait, that's Thomas More, who is depicted as a slavering self-scourger.  Everyone is named Thomas, or Anne.  Mix in hair shirts, a doomed lutenist, bastard sons, whispering women, London Rain, Oxford, the wool trade, and buns.  Oh, the humanity!

2) Freedom, Johnathan Franzen

I'd avoided Jonathan Franzen diligently for years, on the principle that he is an unmitigated whiner, and I had my quota of those in college  Reading Freedom was a lesson in humility -for me, not for Franzen, who can write the pants off anything.  And does.  Lots of pantsless Minnesotans in this one, folks!  Ignore the worst book title this side of "Fifty Ways to Leave your Llama-" I found Freedom so absorbing I went on to chug The Corrections, which is saying something.

3) Light in August, William Faulker

This was my first Faulkner.  Heretofore, I'd been of the opinion that classics were designated as such for their ability to render high school students comatose.  But Faulkner is a fabulous writer, sere and lush and bitter.

4) Wild, Cheryl Strayed

Wild is a novel about a battered wild child rediscovering her center via long-distance hiking. I found the premise, the press, and the authorial voice almost indescribably annoying, but you know what?  I finished it in forty-eight hours.  I spent forty-four of those hours wanting to brain Ms. Strayed, but do we not, after all, come to books in the spirit of self-expansion?  We do, and we should, and remind me never to hike that far.

5) Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

I read a whole, whole lot of genre fiction, most of which goes in one lobe of the brain and out the other.  Of all the mysteries, I read this year, this one stuck.  It's a suspense novel, though not a particularly clever one: the twist swims into vision several miles out.  But it's also a meticulous catalog of the ways in which we hurt and twist and mar those closest to us, and in this capacity, Gone Girl is stupefyingly eerie: an outline chalked around the sprawled body of reality.  My most uncomfortable -and fastest- read of the year.

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