Let’s talk about what I am reading these days.
Just finished Michael Chabon’s Gentlemen of the Road. Its a short novel about Jewish vagabonds/warriors with hearts of gold. They have an adventure in a (I think) make believe kingdom called Kharzia. I had heard of the author due to The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. The book was pleasant, but much of the conceit and the details went over my head. Zelikman, the taciturn, melancholy, fussy surgeon-warrior of the pair was my favorite part. He took offense at killing people more than one at a time since it was only possible to heal them one at a time. Guess he never heard of a vaccine. I never quite knew why I was supposed to find the whole set up amusing (hence my conceit comment above). Was this a real historical context? Is this adventure genrre one I don’t know so the wry, genre-based, meta jokes just went by me? Also, lots of details seemed to me to be ether deliberately obtuse or simply inside references I am not privy to. For example, various su-types of Jewish character are discussed knowingly without any exposition on who or what they are all about (Radanite is one). Since he won the Pulitzer Prize for the other, maybe I should look for it.
Just before Gentelmen of the Road, I finished the Phillip Pullman His Dark Materials trilogy. I had read them three years or so ago. I loved them then, and perhaps more so now. I suppose the film coming out had something to do with it (The Golden Compass). I totally love the free thinking theology quality to it. Many of the characters seem a bit stiff. Sci-fi often seems to have that problem: thought provoking, great premise, but not great characters. Lord Asriel seems particularly this way. Mrs Coulter too. I just don’t care what she is up to, even though he tried to do something interesting in terms of writing her as a wicked villain and then having her evolve into something more problematic in the later books. At the end of the day, the story is so intriguing that I quickly forgive the stiffness and hapily suspend all kinds of disbelief so they can get on with the titanic struggle against a myopic and authoritarian God.
Next up: back to non fiction. Eduardo Galeano’s Soccer in Sun and Shadow has had its spine cracked. Deer Hunting with Jesus, by Joe Bageant looks interesting (especially since I read Whats the Matter with Kansas a few years back). And a thick history of America by Sean Willentz’ The Rise of American Democracy, is elbowing in for attention especially given the portents of historically profound elections going on now.