Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Some Really Awesome Books

In the last couple weeks, I have read some truly fantastic books. Although they were books assigned for class, they completely unfolded as works that touched upon what I needed at the moment - books that, for their own purposes, did not need to be anything more than entertainment. Lucky for me, they were also beautiful, insightful, and thought-provoking.

The first of these is Stop Time, a memoir by Frank Conroy. I loved this book from the very first page. Conroy isn't worried about telling his entire life story; in fact, although the book follows him by age, it's hardly chronological. Moments exist that simply stand out as memories so powerful that they overpower storytelling mechanisms like beginnings and endings, moments worth writing about. It's a complete story without literally being a complete story. It's a beautiful work. The writing is simple but detailed, and Conroy is careful with the way he uses language, imagery, and abstraction. The memoir centers around his somewhat-crazy upbringing. His family had a roaming nature, and he himself picked up heavily on those instincts. Trying to find his way through parental figures who ultimately didn't care that much about raising children, Conroy realizes he has to find his own place in the world. The memoir deals with that struggle, leading to incredible moments where all the familial and spacial tension is built up without Conroy even realizing it at the time. I don't want to give much away because I recommend this book to everyone. There are some books that are written in a way that can appeal to everyone, and I truly believe this is one of those books. Read it, please!

Yesterday, I finished Anne Carson's The Autobiography of Red, a strange but interesting novel in verse. I think Carson is a great poet, a very careful and humane poet. However, this book is certainly not for the faint of heart. It's a tale based on a Greek epic figure, Geryon, the red monster. The book places Geryon in a contemporary setting, and although we are told he is red and has wings, we do not see him as a monster. He's a human being, one who deeply feels every emotion from intense heartbreak to intense peace. The poetry itself is nicely-done, and the book works well as a modern love story. But what it excels in lies in the quiet moments, the throwaway lines and details that really get at what it means to be a human being. I didn't love it quite as much as Stop Time, but I still found it a very worthwhile read (also, it's very quick - it took me only an hour to finish). I would not be as willing to recommend it to just anyone, but anyone who is interested in the way mythology bleeds into modern life, or the way verse and narrative play with and against each other, it's an exciting and unusual piece.

Works Mentioned:
Frank Conroy, Stop Time
Anne Carson, The Autobiography of Red

I hope you are all enjoying your own reading these days, and never hesitate to send me your own recommendations!

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