Friday, October 1, 2010

Recommended reading

Today will be a slow-moving recovery day. Lots of blinking. Some sitting in the sun. Perhaps reading if I can find something worth my attention, a massage, perhaps even--if I recover enough healthy brain cells to fire at once--a look at Hild.

So what reading material can you suggest for me this weekend? Here are some books I've read recently and enjoyed.

Inseparable, Emma Donoghue. This is a good primer on the literary conventions of lesbianism: an explication of the fashions and clich├ęs. Not a lot I didn't already know but very good to see articulated and categorised. I can recommend it. Anyone who aspires to write themselves a place in the lesbian literary tradition needs to know what the tropes are. Read it.

The Echelon Vendetta, David Stone (a pseudonym). Stone writes with brio about a CIA "cleaner" in Italy, and the serious weirdness that ensues. Lots of violence (the protagonist kicks a couple of muggers to death under a bridge in Venice while singing show tunes, and we root for him all the way), some mind-altering substances, ghosts, betrayals, friendships, delicious Italian women. Everything you could possible want in a thriller: depth, bravura, humour, suspense. It reminded me a bit of the early Michael Gruber books. And I recognise some of Stone's influences, so it's a fun spot-the-other-author exercise, too.

Faithful Place, Tana French. This is set in Dublin, a cross between a police procedural and a family saga: revelations about the secrets of the past and the realities of the gritty present, told in pitch-perfect (okay, pitch-practically-perfect) dialogue and with verve.

Casting the Runes and Other Stories, M.R. James. I've been reading this very slowly--following all the footnotes, ruminating on the assumed common knowledge of James' late 19th- and early 20th-Century readership. I haven't quite finished the collection (it's one of the Oxford Classics) but I will because the creepy, mist-drenched haunts of ancestral pile, cathedral close, and academic study are peculiarly soothing. After a dozen or so stories, I find myself longing for a hint, at least, of resolution or violence (I'm a product of a different age) but if you enjoy old-fashioned ghost stories, this is the book for you.

Another book I've read this week is a YA about virgin unicorn slayers. (No, I'm not kidding.) I'll talk about that another time. For now, I have to go pay attention to rehydration, gentle stretching of an overused body, and some soaking-up-the-sun. Perhaps I'll wear my new Swedish Bikini Werewolf Destruction tee shirt.

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