50 Book challenge

An update on the 50 book challenge.

#3 Miracle and Other Christmas Stories, by Connie WIllis. An interesting but ultimately tame mix of cheer and darkness from the Author of Lincoln’s Dreamsm and Passage. I enjoyed it, certainly, but it was an insubstantial little frill. I expect more from Willis.

#4 Best New American Voices, 2005, edited by Francine Prose. The collection is very uneven in tone and quality, more a pastiche of new writers than a coherent anthology. Joshua Ferris’s More Abandon was the one story that grabbed me.

#5 Why Some Like It Hot: Food, Genes, and Cultural Diversity, by Gary Paul Nabhan. Nabhan, an ethnobiologist, presents a discussion of nutritional ecology stripped of technical language and simplified for a popular-press audience. Admittedly, I’m a slavering geek, but I feel that a little more techspeak would be appropriate here.

#6. Invisible Monsters, by Chuck Palahniuk. Palahniuk’s uncompromisingly graphic writing has kept me up at night more than once, as I tore through pages of Fight Club, Choke, and Lullaby long past midnight. His plots are intricate and unpredictable, and the writing — oh, the writing. More blunt instrument than surgical tool, his style has me wincing as I read.

Not so in Invisible Monsters, where the plot is transparent almost from the first pages, with the contrived series of denouements becoming one long bore. Worst of all, the writing, loades with brutal physical grotesqueries layered sloppily onto emotional metaphor, reads like a parody of Palahniuk. With no gripping plot or breathtaking writing to obscure his tricks, Invisible Monsters is nothing but tricks. It’s like seeing the magic show from backstage: I might never again believe he can saw the lady in half.