Thursday, March 19, 2009

My Headband is Squeezing my Brains Out

Being on a plane once again this week, plus just generally being more smarter and more hard working-er than the rest of you, I have several "Book[s] of the Week" to choose from today.  Do you want to hear about "Girl Among the Anarchists," which I started first, but am only 2/3 of the way finished because other books got in the way?  Or would you like to hear about "The Enchantress of Florence," Salman Rushdie's "new" book, which was the only Rushdie they had for sale at BAM! Books a Million! which is across the street from my office and is a miserable rotten bookstore for that?  Or, how about "All Shall Be Well; and All Shall Be Well; and All Manner of Things Shall Be Well," by Tod Wodicka, which proves that picking books based on starting from the end of the alphabet in a Barnes & Noble and looking for great titles will really pay off?

Cast your ballots!


Ok, votes are in, I'm going to tell you about the last two, since I've actually finished them.


The Enchantress of Florence came out in 2008 (oh, those halcyon days), and I meant to buy it right away, even in hardcover, even if it put my reading out of order... but then I didn't.  Don't I tell great stories?  

Anyway, a quick glance at Rushdie's Wikiwikiwhat page shows me that I've read every novel he's ever written, and gotten a start on the short stories as well.  That should make me a Salman Rushdie Expert, but instead I think it just makes me almost incapable of reviewing anything by him.  I'm actually a Salman Rushdie Psycho Fan, and I may or may not own a pair of Salman Rushdie Pajamas that I wear under my clothing at all times.  So, you have permission to ignore me when I tell you that this is the most awesome novel you will ever read, and even if you're not stuck on a bus or train or plane, you will read it all the way through as fast as you can and then wish you had read it more slowly.  You will carry it around with you and whip it out at your in-laws place, ignoring normal social mores around helping with the dishes, because You Are Busy.  When it is finished, you will dream about Qara Koz, the semi-mythical "hidden princess" aka Lady Black Eyes, aka Angelica, and the traveller/storyteller Niccolo Vespucci, aka Ucello, aka Mogor dell'Amore ("The Moghul of Love").  If you haven't already, you will then quickly lay siege to every other Rushdie novel ever written and find them all to be just as wonderful.

Tod Wodicka, on the other hand, while certainly Pajama-worthy, I had never heard of before I read this book.  I don't feel too bad about that, since even ol' Wiki barely has a stub article on the guy, and his bibliography seems to be only this novel.  For first novels, it's a pretty damn amazing achievement.  For not first novels it's fantastic, in fact.  It follows Burt Hecker, aka Eckbert Attquiet (I'm all about the "aka" this week), who is a medieval re-enactor, father of two, semi-recent widow, and possessor of a nose whose description becomes like a good horror movie's monster: much worse in imagination than it could possibly be in life.  Burt is, quite simply, going off the deep end before the novel begins, and the narration jumps around a bit in his life to help explain why.  What it does well that other novels have failed at, is building a sympathetic character out of a pile of disgusting and laughable attributes.  Although his medieval obsession can be funny, it's never played for laughs.  While his children hate him, and he's always drunk on mead, and for some reason I get the impression he has terrible body odor, you still want him to be your friend--or at least to invite you to the annual revel at his wife's mansion.  

So there you go: two more novels you should feel bad about not reading.  Tune in tomorrow when I tell you about seeing the Pogues live in concert and maybe even upload a video shot using cell phone technology circa 2006.  Yay!


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