Monday, August 06, 2007

On the Nightstand The Yiddish Policeman's Union - Michael Chabon

That Chabon can create a remarkably real-feeling, historically speaking, world in a novel was proven in his lauded The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay. So that he has done it again with the imagined post World War II Alaskan Jewish settlement of Sitka here is no real surprise. But the plotting that impressed in Kavalier and Clay is here a bit more muddy. maybe it's a function of my not having read the book in a sustained burst, but over the span of a few weeks, but I found myself frankly at sea and befuddled by the tying up of the plot threads in the end of the book - the big revelations about Meyer Landsman's (the main character) sister, the driving murder mystery of the novel, the larger conspiracy laden world that features heavily in the climax - all of it was confusing and murky to this reader. That being said, the richness of Chabon's prose and characters and the stunning specificity of the world and setting he has created more than made up for it. It's an odd duck, really - almost as if Chabon, fearful of being pegged too "literary," and proud of his love of pulpy plots and thrilling revelations, pushed against his instinct of writing a more low-key and less eventful "literary" novel by amping up the thriller/mystery angles of his story. And I really kind of wish he hadn't.

A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the making of Blood on the Tracks - Andy Gill and Kevin Odegard

A very readable, pleasant accounting of the creation of one of my favorite albums ever that didn't really engross me the way I expected it too. Still, the first-hand reminisces of the session players - both the New York players whose work was famously mostly discarded and the Minneapolis players whose work replaced the New York stuff - made the book easily worth the read. I'm always surprised by how good real musicians are - the accountings of Dylan barely playing through a song for them before they were to record it just amazed me. After all, the musicianship on display in the finished product is hardly sub-par.

Until Whenever

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