Friday, August 31, 2007

Not the reading list for August 2007

The monthly reading lists seem to have died a natural death: I missed a month, nobody complained, and now at the end of a second month I have no particular desire to trot out a post in that format. Ah well, it was good while it lasted.

I am reading, though, and was even during July. I do want to talk about what I'm reading, so perhaps I will switch to an aperiodic book-report style as recently in evidence.

Currently I'm reading "Beowulf" and Douglas Coupland's "Miss Wyoming," very different of course, but that helps keep them distinct in my mind. "Miss Wyoming" annoys me, it's full of tiny, trivial factual errors that keep rattling my suspension of disbelief (a four-year-old child is not tall enough to push all the buttons in an elevator; seat 58A is—like every seat A on every airplane across the world—a window-seat on the airplane's port side, someone sitting to the left of this seat would be outside the aircraft). Odd mistakes for a detail-fetishist like Coupland to have made, odder still that they should have made it into print. Did no-one who read this book on its way to paper, ever sit in an airplane? Have none of them children? The implication is that Coupland doesn't give a damn; and if he doesn't, why should I? Bah. The tale is quite intriguing, else I'd have abandoned the book from sheer annoyance.

While in Hamburg I read "Monsieur Ibrahim et les Fleurs du Koran," as previously mentioned; a lovely, heartwarming, faith-in-human-perfectibility-restoring tale, please do read it. Nonetheless, the book of the month for July was "Das Wetter vor 15 Jahren" by the Austrian novelist Wolf Haas (it hasn't yet been translated, but surely will be as it was a great success here. Note the name and keep your eyes open!)

It's a wonderful game: the record of a four-day-long extended interview between an Austrian novelist named Wolf Haas and a journalist for one of the Sunday newspapers' literary supplements, in which they discuss in great detail Haas' latest novel. The book consists solely of dialogue as though transcribed directly from the tape-recorder: Haas and the unnamed (woman) journalist talk about his novel's origin as an incredible-but-true story on a reality TV show; they discuss the original people and how Haas met them, and how these originals compare to the characters based upon them; and they quote long passages from the novel to each other. And the story that one hears in this way is quite wonderful: a mixture of whodunnit (both Haases, the real author and the character, usually write detective stories), love story, modernistic life-as-accumulation-of-tiny-details in the style of Nicholson Baker, and nostalgic look back at the days of our youth.

It's a marvellous tease, the most entrancing book I've read in a long while. At first, one is annoyed that Haas didn't actually write the novel that they discuss, that one cannot actually read it; but after a while this changes: you begin to think that the novel in your head is much better than the one he would have written. It's like the difference between listening to a story told on the radio, and watching the same story as an averagely-made TV show, or seeing a movie made from a well-liked book: the pictures in your head are always better than those on the screen. Haas' words could never be as good as those I imagined him having written. Very highly recommended indeed (to German-speakers and the patient).

Today's Friday Favourite is a favourite song by a favourite artist from a favourite CD; I'm very surprised to realize that I haven't previously posted anything by him. The CD is twelve years old already, how time flies. I remember hearing this on the car radio with my sister and family one Christmas, as we drove about town looking at the decorations.

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Blogger Savtadotty said...

I'll be patient enough to wait for the translation, but it sounds like a fun book. Having grown up on radio, I know how much better than TV the shows in my head were.

September 1, 2007 at 10:32:00 a.m. GMT+2  
Blogger Lioness said...

I'm curious about the book now, though I suspect I may resent there not being the actual novel - I am a telly child, after all.

Douglas Coupland annoys me a bit. He wrote that small wonder, Microserfs, which is an amazing, uplifting, thoroughly adorable book. Every other book he wrote - and I've read them all except for God Hates Japan bcs my friend has them all and I often use him as a library - is just somehow mildly annoying. And Jpod?? Throroughly demented, he was on an absolute ego trip when he wrote it and even wrote himself into it. Very disturbing. I'll still read anything he writes, it's a time-filler and there's always hope, but I'm never excited abt it.

September 1, 2007 at 5:13:00 p.m. GMT+2  
Blogger Rob said...

My copy of Monsieur Ibrahim arrived yesterday. Looking forward to reading it.

I agree with Lioness about Microserfs and Jpod; haven' read any other COupland though.

September 3, 2007 at 3:36:00 a.m. GMT+2  
Blogger Udge said...

Hooray for Microserfs, indeed. But Coupland is rapidly using up the goodwill that it earned him in my books (so to speak).

September 3, 2007 at 3:46:00 p.m. GMT+2  

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