On my glorious retreat to the family reunion, I read a whole truckload of crap, some from the library and some from the shelves of the family home. I am almost too humiliated to record the titles here, but you deserve to know my deep dark secrets. Lucky.
64. Olivia Joules and the Overactive Imagination, by Helen Fielding.
If ever a book was more insulting to the female reader than Bridget Jones’s Diary, this is it. Sweet fancy Moses, Fielding, what are you doing?
65. Mindscan, by Robert T. Sawyer.
A back-cover blurb declares Sawyer’s writing comparable to Asimov’s. You might consider, as I did not, that Asimov is best known for his imaginative story lines, his wit, his flexibility of mind… but not for the artistry of his writing.
Damning with faint praise? Sawyer certainly fails to display great imagination or wit here. The major themes of Mindscan (what constitutes humanity and intelligence, how we define identity) are almost entirely lifted from the non-fiction works of Roger Penrose and Steven Pinker. In the right hands, this material would make an amusing short story. As it stands, the book is clumsy and predictable.
66. Three for the Chair, by Rex Stout.
Three Nero Wolfe novellas. I love Nero Wolfe: reliable misogyny and snark, punctuated by frequent episodes of gastroporn. Rex Stout novellas, however, are often disappointing, perhaps because the author is churning them out for quick publication and correspondingly quick money, perhaps because their brevity doesn’t allow the characters room to breathe. [I also started the full-length And Be a Villain, which I selected on the virtue of its title alone, but I never had a chance to finish it. Maybe next year.]
67. Sphere, by Michael Crichton.
So, somebody read Solaris, hmmm? Crichton seems to have found it tough going, so he did us the favor of trimming out all the complex cogitation, moral and emotional ambiguity, and, you know, thinky stuff. Oy, the unintentional humor just doesn’t stop! I heartily recommend it.
68. Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui, by Karen Kingston.
An acquaintance recommended this book as an organizational guide, so I ordered it from interlibrary loan. This means I never had a chance to leaf through it before checking it out, and, yes, that does sound like a pathetic excuse. While I am not so much a believer in spiritual blahblahblah, any guiding principle that causes me to heave out great piles of crap seems tenable. But Kingston quickly wanders outside the tenets of feng shui and starts blathering about sacred space and ceremonial cleansing. Woman, the place needs clearing, not cleansing!
It did work a rough catharsis, if only because it filled me with the bustling energy engendered by scorn. Within 20 hours of returning home, I have already sorted out three shopping bags of clothing to donate, rearranged my bedroom, and sorted through old paperwork, filling a milkcrate with articles and print-outs, stripped of brads and staples and ready for recycling.
69. Suspect, by Michael Robotham.
A competently written psychological thriller. The language is a bit flat, and toward the end the twists do get out of hand, but there are many worse books one could be reduced to reading. (See above.)
70. The Bride of Catastrophe, by Heidi Jon Schmidt.
Literature, lesbianism, hunger for love, and crazy parents. Yawn. If I’d wanted this brand of overwrought drama, I would’ve gone to a family reunion. Oh, wait…