Saturday, December 30, 2006
Two books at Christmas
It's the holiday season so I ran down to the other end of the book life cycle and became a reader for a few days. One book, I found interesting, but not particularly enjoyable, the other enthralling.
Patricia Highsmith - "Nothing that meets the eye" - a collection of short stories. I haven't finished reading this one yet; it's split into two parts; some of her early stories and some of her later ones. I've read ten of the stories so far.
The good: I enjoy her descriptive style and her use of language. She certainly knows how to create image and I came away thinking that I had probably not plumed the depth of the literary allusions she created. Culture and time differences would have made some of them rather opaque.
The bad: I came away from all ten stories feeling dissatisfied. The sting in the tail (if it existed) always seemed so weak and feeble. Usually the story just petered out in some entirely foreseeable way. Certainly not what I was taught a good short story should be. I may not bother to read the other stories.
Leif Enger - "Peace Like a River". This book blew me away. It is Leif Enger's first novel and it is utterly readable with an ending that completely ambushed me. The story is written from the PoV of an eleven year old boy (Ruben) and is set in the 1960's. His elder brother (Davey) kills two town bullies and goes on the run. Ruben's father, Ruben, and his younger sister (Sweed) set out to look for Davey, traveling through Dakota in the middle of winter. Also searching is a Federal Marshal (Andreeson) and its a race to see who finds Davey first. A simple story at its heart, but one with so many different layers and twists that it ranks as one of those rare books that, having read it, one comes away feeling totally satisfied.
Lief Enger certainly knows how to cook up a good story and if you've not read it yet, then I highly recommend it.