Lisbeth Salander comes back

Wow, it’s been a very long time since posting to this site, and unfortunately I return with less-than-lofty-reading suggestions.

I mean, I can recommend Kleiner Mann, was nun? by Hans Fallada and Wie der Soldat das Grammofon repariert by Saša Stanišić -a recent and current reading, but I mostly feel like writing about David Lagerkrantz’s The Girl in the Spider’s WebThere’s something to be said about industrialized countries and their love for crime-fiction; there’s a direct negative correlation  of crime in these countries to the success of novels, movies, and tv that features some handsome someone(s) solving made-up crimes. But observations about the way Germans, US Americans, Brits and Swedes entertain themselves is left for another day.

From CBsays.com

Lagerkrantz’s creation is a continuation of the Millennium Series started by the Swede author Stieg Larsson. Unfortunately, Larsson died in 2004 and couldn’t continue the tale, but Lazerkrantz bravely took up the sword and tried to breathe new life into Mikael Bolmkvist, Lisbeth Salander, and their fellow characters.

The short review:  I was gratified to see Lagerkrantz continue the balance of fact with fiction. Still, he couldn’t do it as skillfully as Larsson. But it was entertaining and I’m glad to see Salander kicking ass as usual.

A longer review for this kind of book isn’t necessary. I continue to wonder if the writing suffered in the original, or because of the translation, but Lagerkrantz is clearly a plot writer, not a journalist or with an eye for fine personable characteristics. However, despite all the bad I could write, Lagerkrantz did successfully continue the tale better than my own imagination could, so that’s a compliment.

I recommend this for Salander/Blomkvist/Office Bubbles fans, but otherwise, there are better ways to spend your time- like watching an eventual film adaptation with Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist or Daniel Craig. This is an instance where I’m willing to bet the movie is better than the book.

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Don Delillo’s White Noise

I have a run to go on and have spent a lot of time today updating my blogs (finally), but I can’t pass up the chance to talk about this book.

I haven’t done too much reading outside of thesis and class work for a while, but Delillo’s White Noise was worth the time it took to get through the sometimes dry, slow writing.

Basically, all I feel like writing now is that it deals with one of life’s biggest questions, death, and works with the topic and how it affects people in the most intelligent, fascinating of ways. The characters are despicable, pathetic, and absolutely normal. They are no more to blame for the way they behave than the rest of us, all insecure in our own ways and all worthy of pity.

That at least, is how a first impression of the novel works on me. If I ever get back to this, I can write more about it. Maybe some things will ferment in the meantime.

I encourage you to read it, if you haven’t already. At first I thought I wouldn’t like it (it’s a bit snobby in what it expects, intellectually), but can be appreciated as a “fun” read to.

Happy reading… this or anything else.

Once a Runner

A book about a collegiate runner… in Florida… of course I had to read it.

I just finished devouring John L. Parker, Jr.’s Once a Runner. I guess there’s something to be said for the fact that the first book I get to write about in this blog is about running. I have been reading Lawrence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman for over a month now, and I read Oscar Wilde’s Portrait of Dorian Gray (though, looking at my MA reading list, I guess I only had to read the first few chapters), but I haven’t gotten around to writing about those two yet. Just finishing Tristram Shandy is a challenge that is waiting to be overcome. It’s a well-written book and hugely funny and thought-provoking, taking in many different aspects of philosophy, religion, science, and politics, but the digressions… more on that later.

This is the original 1978 cover of the novel. It’s a lot like I looked as a collegiate runner, obviously. The room, shoes, and shorts, at least, look familiar.

As for Once a Runner, I’m not sure if I agree with Runner’s World’s praise that it is “the best novel ever written about running,” but it is pretty good. It ends in a way that is to be expected–full of the hard-fought, well-earned single-moment decided success–but it reminds the reader about all the work that goes into being ready for that single race. Of course, a miler is the same as a writer or a successful actor in that all successful people need to dedicate a lot of time to working on their practice before it becomes something that earns them recognition and they reach the top. I was surprised to see the ten-thousand hours of preparation that I thought were Malcolm Gladwell’s in Parker, Jr.’s story-line. I prefer his other way of calling it: the Miles of Trials, or Trial of Miles.

There are surprising things I learned about one-mile runners, but on the whole I just appreciated the ways in which Parker, Jr. expressed that which I have experienced myself, on and off the track. For example,  the description of what Quenton Cassidy (the main character) and his friend go through to “be able to enjoy the day like any other citizen” could be used to describe my own life:

“In order to arrange this day of perfect drifting, an entirely traditional local pastime [referring to inner  tubing on a river], he and Mizner-now floating up ahead with his date-had arisen at 7:30 and run seventeen miles. It was the only way they could spend their day in the sweet haze of Boone’s Farm apple wine and still appease the great white Calendar God whose slighted or empty squares would surely turn up someday to torment the guilt-ridden runner. They went through such contortions to prove to themselves that their lives didn’t have to be so abnormal, but in the process usually just ended up accentuating the fact” (Parker, Jr. 43).

Any one in my family or circle of friends can attest to the fact that this is how runners are, and that I am a runner. Parker, Jr. helps one think about what that means and what striving for a goal, that is both within reach and miles of trial away, means.

Thus, this is a book worthy of reading by runners and non-runners alike; there are excellently drawn-in allusions to political debates at the time, such as the deployment of U.S. soldiers to Vietnam, Cold War communist fear, post-World War II fascist critique (it’s not often you have an American writer point out that there were fascists in the States too), and the beginnings of LGBTQ rights. There’s also a lovely story line with Cassidy and his girlfriend, though a lot of that is to show what it is like to be in-love with a runners… from the runner’s point of view.

One critique I have of the novel is that it is very male-oriented with little development of the few female characters. It is also rather annoyingly framed and interrupted by the story of head coaches, team managers, and southern attitude. I think all these things are interesting and worth writing about, but the two worlds were not as intricately drawn as I would have liked. It was rather superficial the way in which Doobey and Prigman were brought in to show the capitalist or military mentality of southerners and Americans. I did appreciate the subtle critique of America, but this too was merely touched upon… on the other hand, it is a book about running, so likely there wasn’t room for much more than merely touching upon it. I guess I am annoyed that it was touched upon at all, then, since Parker, Jr. does bring it up and they are fairly complex criticisms and worth exploring further.

At any rate, I encourage readers to judge for themselves and to take a look at this book. I bought Once a Runner for less than five dollars on Amazon, and it is a book I don’t mind keeping on my shelf for a very long time.

Now, on to higher-brow (I guess, I think that’s…I may be a bit insecure about what my professors will think of me reading Once a Runner)  literature. The fact that I was able to read this book in a day gives me hope that I will be able to finish Tristram Shandy within the week after all.