Monday, February 26, 2007

A Short Attention Span

My attention span, since I finished Richard Russo's Straight Man, has been extremely short. I've started and stopped a dozen books. I just can't keep my mind on any of them. I tried The Last Witchfinder but was turned off by the conceit of the author of the book being a book, specifically Newton's Principia. The fault may be with me; I may go back to the book later, I don't know. I went to the store today and came back with these:

  1. Maisie Dobbs: Jacqueline Winspear
  2. Water for Elephants: Sara Gruen
  3. The Case of the Missing Books: Ian Sansom
  4. Heart-Shaped Box: Joe Hill
  5. The Castle in the Forest: Norman Mailer (not that I'm a big Mailer fan, but it's Hitler's youth fictionalized)

And speaking of Straight Man, babelbabe told me this was Richard Russo's second worst novel, Empire Falls being the worst. Apparently I'm reading them in order of badness. Straight Man seems like the type of novel that would appeal to me -- it's set in an academic world, it's funny, it's well-written. What could be wrong with it? It's the major character -- after a while, I just got tired of Hank Devereaux Jr. He turns everything, even his possible recall as department chair, into a joke. I wanted to slap him and say, "This is serious!" And that's Russo's genius; he makes his readers feel the same frustration with Hank that the characters in the novel feel. He's also able to be humorous while dealing with serious issues -- the plot involves layoffs at a university that may go so deep they will even effect tenured professors. Taken as a whole, while it may not be Russo's best book, Straight Man was at least worth my time, which cannot be said of every book I've read.

8 comments:

Suse said...

I'll be interested to hear what you think of Water for Elephants.

Katya said...

I wasn't originally going to read it but so many people who have similar books tastes as I do have really loved it.

sari said...

I really liked Heart Shaped Box, I just finished it. I actually read it in a day, which is pretty hard to believe for me lately.

Good writing, good story, I wanted to know what happened, when I thought I knew what was happening, I didn't quite know. I like that.

Katya said...

Oh, good -- I'm glad to hear that. I hate it when I know what's going to happen. Did you know Joe Hill is Stephen King's son?

BabelBabe said...

Good choices! I am looking forward to hearing what you think.

sari said...

I did know that, Katya! I read it on Neil Gaiman's blog, and it piqued my interest, so I picked up the book right away. It did not disappoint!

Lazy cow said...

I adored Straight Man, so I guess the other unread Russo novels will be a real treat (just bought The Risk Pool). The Maisie Dobbs series is interesting. She drives me crazy at times - being so perfect initially, but she becomes more human as the books progress. I've borrowed the Sansom book from the library as how can I resist the title? Water for elephants was a fun read.

Katya said...

lc: It's impossible to resist that title -- I had to buy it. I hope they are good. I liked the first Maisie Dobbs but am really glad to hear she becomes more human as the books progress. Water For Elephants didn't see like my type of book but so many people who have similar tastes to me have loved it, so I picked it up.