Thursday, July 31, 2008

On the Nightstand

Vacation afforded me the time for some solid reading. Some thoughts on some recently finished books:

In Defense of Food - Michael Pollan
Pollan's follow-up to his excellent The Omnivore's Dilemma is a fine read, but with maybe a tad too much overlap with the previous book. That niggle aside, the book is a very well-told account of how what we eat in this country has changed so much over the past fifty years. Pollan's simple advice, which frames and serves as the backbone of the book is simple and clear and eminently logical and right - it's exactly how I should eat. Eat food - that is real food that your great-grandmother would recognize, and not chemical-laden processed food. Mostly plants. Sure. Not too much. Goes without saying. The sad truth, of course, is that I know that I simply could not eat like this - as much as I want to have the devotion to put the effort in (it takes more effort to find and cook real food) to do it. So, in the end, this book made me sad.

The Abstinence Teacher - Tom Perrotta
The first novel of Perrota's I've read, although I've seen Election and Little Children, both based on Perrotta novels. I like his writing, and he has a good grasp on the mildly affluent New Jersey suburbs he's set the novel in, a world I grew up and now live in, but, as I find is the case with a lot of contemporary literary fiction, there is simply no real ending. Here, it's especially egregious, since he sets up a soccer final game at which the two opposing sides will battle and that ends the novel before the game. Very odd. Very frustrating. Still, he does a great job of getting into the heads of the Christian Right and their antagonists, and while it's always crystal clear where his sympathies lie, he manages to paint a pretty, in the end, sympathetic portrait of his main religious character as well, while making sure to paint his secular protagonist pretty harshly as well.

The Android's Dream - John Scalzi
Scalzi can write like the Dickens, and has as fertile an imagination as any writer I can think of, piling clever new realities and concepts on top of each other as fast as he can. But his characters are sometimes dismayingly paper-thin, and his plots can get a little overcomplex for my poor tired head. Still, I like the good in him enough to keep reading.

Daredevil - Ed Brubaker
After finally catching up on Bendis' run, after reading the issues several years back and falling away, I've been able ot read the first three trades of Brubaker's still-going run. A big fan of Brubaker's excellent Captain America run, I was expecting to like his Daredevil, and was not at all surprised by what I read. After these first 18 or so issues, Brubaker has restored Murdock to some semblance of normalcy after the hell Kevin Smith and Bendis put the character through, but he did it fairly and didn't rush things, giving the "back to normal" story as much space as it needed. Brubaker's stuff doesn't have the stylistic or formal tricks Bendis' did, and he doesn't have Bendis' gift for dialogue (who does), but as pure story I think he might actually have the upper hand.

Until Whenever

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