Monday, August 16, 2010

Guest Blogging

Today I was a guest blogger for the Seattle Public Library and the Seattle PI (R.I.P). Thought I'd post it here as well (or you could click through -- they're really cool blogs). They asked me to chat about what's on my nightstand now -- that is, what I just finished reading, what I'm reading now, what I'm reading next -- a pretty cool conceit. Many thanks to Linda Johns at the SPL for the opportunity!

Nightstand Reading

Currently Reading:

by Amy Bloom
Awesome -- beautiful writing, great characters, epic and sprawling and with a surprise (at least to me) section set right in Pioneer Square

Flash Fiction: Very Short Stories
Edited by James Thomas, Denise Thomas, and Tom Hazuka
If you’ve never sampled flash fiction, I highly recommend it, especially for bus riders with motion sickness, parents of toddlers, cookers of dishes which need attention but also to simmer, and others who require bite-sized, quickly read, easily digested, super short narratives. These stories are mostly two pages tops. In that space though, they manage to tell a whole story, one I often find myself thinking about for far longer than it took me to read it, all the more impressive for being so succinct.

Just Finished:

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet
by David Mitchell
I am a huge, huge David Mitchell fan. The reviews of this one all comment on how different it is than his others -- how much more linear and straightforward. I’m not sure I agree. It’s less of an exercise than Cloud Atlas certainly, but it’s still chock full of frames, puzzles and solutions and resolutions, multiple points-of-view, surprise poems, and the endless challenges of human communication. It’s a book about language and its difficulties and barriers and intricacies. Mitchell pulls off this miracle -- his characters are regularly speaking at least four different languages, and he recreates them all, in English of course, and in his own stunning, revelatory, consistently gorgeous prose. The book is slow and long and very detailed; it takes its time. It’s so thoroughly researched you wonder how Mitchell had any energy left to write the thing. Its first chapter is pretty mind-blowing. It’s got pictures! But mostly, as always with Mitchell, the writing is breathtaking, the metaphors are brilliant, the insights are extraordinary. It’s not an easy book, and I have a few complaints about the ending, but it is a great book. It tells the story of this old and totally unfamiliar world so thoroughly that I was depressed and a little stunned to have to leave it when I finished the book.

Next Up:

At my agent’s recommendation, both of Meg Mullins’s novels, The Rug Merchant and Dear Strangers (great title!). My agent is the most well-read person I know (and I know a lot of well-read people), so her recommendation means a lot.

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