Saturday, October 31, 2009

Martyr & Pessl

Two books: slightly annoying for different reasons --although both seem to go on a bit too long, but one has a  first person narrator with a genius for citing the publication dates of every book she's ever encountered and the other mixes a strangely unmusical prose style with an unfortunate knack for making extraordinary lives seem tiresome.  Both, however, manage to overcome their defects for long stretches somewhere in their middles:  John Irving's Until I Find You through the creation of a tragically comic character named Emma, and Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics through flirtatious association of  a character named Hannah Schneider with the likes of Charles Manson.  Thus in the one case you get something beside wrestling and tattoos, and in the other something beside chicklit snottiness and nerdy snobbiness.  They also have this in common: working very hard to have their main characters discover secrets about their parents that the reader may or may not have seen coming.  In neither case, however, was the main character as interesting as the parents --and that's not saying much.  At any rate, you spend your time reading something that's not as good as other things you've read, and you're left with something like memories that stay with you, learning from experience --learning from mistakes, your own and others'.