Things I’m Reading Thursday #1

Remember Things I Love Thursday? You should do — it was a regular feature on ONS for a whole year! TiLT is a big blogosphere phenomenon and I loved trying my hand at it, but a while ago I decided to quit and move onto something more relevant to this blog. I’ve been scratching my head over it for ages and then finally came up with this: Things I’m Reading Thursday. I now plan to let you all know what I’m reading each week (even if that happens to be nothing — yes, I promise I’ll be honest), and I hope you lot will jump on the bandwagon too. I’m always on the lookout for book recs, so let me know what you’ve read recently too. OK? Here goes, then…

Alex Cross’ Trial, by James Patterson
Well, a weird book to start on… because it’s one I’d never, ever, ever pick up off a bookshelf in a million years, under normal circumstances. But right now I’m doing some work that requires me to read such… stuff, if you can believe it, so I had no choice.
I’m pretty sure this is the worst book I’ve ever read. And I’ve read some bad, bad books. To add insult to injury, Patterson holds the record for the highest number of US Bestseller novels by the same author (51 so far), and is rumoured to be worth more than any other living fiction writer. I was aware of his fame and fortune before I started the book, so expected that he’d at least be able to string a decent plot together (a la John Grisham, for example). Apparently, that was a rather silly assumption.

I won’t do a character assassination on the book because hey, clearly millions of people love his work (this just in: yes, a million people can be — and are — wrong), and I’d literally be here ALL DAY. Apparently Stephen King once said that all Patterson writes are “dopey thrillers.” Having read the first half (yeah, I gave up. Well, I say ‘gave up’… I mean ‘threw it across the room’) of Alex Cross’ Trial, I’d be inclined to agree.

Strangers by Anita Brookner
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I have never heard of Anita Brookner, yet in her thirty-year writing career she has written 25 novels, and she won the Booker Prize in 1984. Strangers is a rather weird novel — definitely not what I expected from the cover blurb. It tells the story of Paul, an elderly man living alone in a London flat. He is obsessively nostalgic, and on the one hand desperate to have someone ‘around’ as he grows older, but at the same time fiercely protective of his own miserable solitude. Brookner writes in a style that’s only a whisker away from old-fashioned… and at times her prose seems repetitive, but I think that’s part of Paul’s “voice.” Other readers say they found the story depressing and Paul’s interior monologue banal, but I’m inclined to think: hey, elderly people really live like this. Sorry if that depresses or bores you, but it’s true! Personally, I am enjoying the novel (I’m on the last couple of chapters). I find Paul’s character interesting — he seems frustratingly selfish but also justified in his partly-self-made vulnerability — and I’m curious to see if his endless musings (there’s barely any dialogue, only Paul’s own thoughts) actually lead to anything. It’s not a book that’s easy to read, but I’m terrible for giving up on prose as soon as I get to a patch that bores me (typical poet, right?), and I haven’t put this down yet. I probably won’t read it again, but it is definitely A Good Read.

So, what are you reading right now? I’m nosy — tell me in the comments box! Or better still, jump on the Things I’m Reading Thursday bandwagon and write your own post.

(Photo by Mindfulgirl)

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21 Responses to “Things I’m Reading Thursday #1”

  1. Katja Says:

    Ahh, I just wanted to say that I love this idea! Especially coming from a someone who is professionally well versed in literature, too! I just finished The Picture of Dorian Gray (yes, shame shame it took me so long), and I am also reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now as a sort of mdication for my anxiety. Not sure what fiction I will pick up next, I have a tower of books waiting to be read.

  2. Gareth Says:

    LMAO @ James Patterson — I know someone who says he’s their favourite author!

    I’ve just finished The Remains Of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro — absolutely loved it to bits. Have just started reading The Big Sleep (I’ve forgotten the author’s name though) and whilst it isn’t at all my usual fare, I’m rather enjoying it.

    Also, great idea for the Thursday slot methinks! :)

  3. Claire Says:

    Gareth — is the Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler? I think so…
    Never read any of his, though people keep recommending it. Let me know what you think when you finish it!

  4. charlotte g Says:

    i’m reading paradise lost at the moment, for an essay i have to write over the next couple of weeks. i’m only on the second book, and not sure how i feel about it so far - i would probably never choose to read it, but obviously it’s very good. it’s less difficult than i thought it would be, too - although i’m probably not getting a lot of classical references. it’s very long, and i seem to be mostly with concerned with how many pages i have left, which isn’t a great way to read, but there you go.

    i’m also reading some medieval mystery plays from the york cycle, for similar reasons. not great with middle english, but they’re okay.

    & i’ve been flicking through a variety of criticism/theory books, trying to decide which of the ones i have at the moment i should read (if any). i’m in my second year at university and did the only exam that will be focused on theory/criticism at all last year, but i avoided theory at all costs and now feel like i’m definitely lacking something. so i’m probably going to read a very basic introduction and then build on it… so far i like formalism.

  5. Regina Says:

    I’ve never read JP but i see his books all over… right now I am reading- a mixed bag for sure- Madness by Marya Hornbacher and Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot.
    Madness is a brutal memoir but so compelling and SK, well, is SK! Love to be scared sometimes!

  6. swiss Says:

    well done you for tackling this alex cross business. so i don’t have to! but it is useful to read some popular, if shit books, every now and again. and also, see some of the they are reading posts, to speak to some people about why they like them. sometimes the enthusiasm and joy of reading can overcome the misgivings. writing as entertainment? surely not! lol

    have posted on some of the things i’m reading just recently. poetry wise i’m currently enjoying emma jones and really up for that julia hartwig

  7. Col Says:

    Aren’t there loads of james Patterson books that he doesn’t even write? Just gives a basic outline to someone else, yet still has his name blasted across the cover, and a small “with name” at the bottom.
    Just finished London Orbital by Iain Sinclair. A weighty tome even by Sinclair’s standard. The usual dense prose, and recurring people (if you’ve happen to have read another of his non-fiction books) History and travelogue, in equl measure, but I still prefer his fiction work.

    Big Sleep is Chandler. And excellent too if you like dectective noir. Eg The Maltese Falcon By Dashiell Hammett

  8. Claire Says:

    Col — I think he calls that “collaborating.” Ahem.
    & I have an awesome-looking poetry anthology edited by Iain Sinclair sitting on the top of my to-read pile right now…

  9. mark Says:

    I am currently reading ‘Nicholas Nickelby’ by Dickens and ‘Baseball Haiku’ by Cor van den Heuvel and Nanae Tamura that I got for Christmas.

    I love Dickens, but his books take so long to get through…

    And both ‘The Big Sleep’ and ‘The Maltese Falcon’ are essential reading.

  10. Claire Says:

    Mark — have you read Hard Times? That’s my favourite Dickens… and it’s short too!

  11. Hamish MacDonald Says:

    Thank you for calling out the anti-literature dark matter that is the James Patterson(TM) franchise. A friend left me a Patterson book as a thank-you for letting him stay, and I was shocked by how bad it was.

    The omniscient narrator used vernacular speech in the opening chapter to tell us, basically, that the villain was a bastard. (”Tell” being the operative word.) Then, five chapters in, the book switches point of view to the first person, but the same voice, the same language used to describe the cardboard cut-out villain remained.

    And now I see the books everywhere, in every bestseller list and bookshop. (*sigh*)

    Over the holidays I read Michael Chabon’s “The Amazing Adventures of Cavalier and Klay” and loved it. As a novelist who grew up drawing comics (though never reading them, strangely), I felt like the novel was written for me to enjoy.

    I’ve just discovered your site and subscribed to the RSS feed. Looking forward to a year of good stuff!

  12. Claire Says:

    Hello Hamish! Welcome to One Night Stanzas! Hope you enjoy your time here :)

    I agree about the ‘telling’ — Alex Cross’ Trial is set in Washington DC some time “in the early 20th century” (I don’t think it ever specifies). Patterson seems to remember this only occasionally, suddenly throwing in a reference to ragtime music or long hemlines, or chucking in some hokey old-time-y semantics. It’s excruciating…

    Thanks for the rec on Michael Chabon. Never come across him before — always nice to make a discovery!

  13. Gareth Says:

    Claire — as Col says The Big Sleep is indeed by Raymond Chandler, and I’ll of course let you know how I found it. I think when I finish it I’ll move onto Hard Times as — I know this is ridiculously terrible for an English/fiction lover — I’ve yet to read a Dickens novel!

  14. David Says:

    I’ve been reading lots of poems by Elizabeth Bishop this week. I think I’m falling in love. The poems are subtle and particularly dense but there are some real stunners. “The Shampoo” being my favourite. Fiction-wise I’m on The Master and Margarita - so far so exciting…

  15. H. Says:

    LOL James Patterson. I have yet to figure out wtf is up with the bestseller list and suspect it is a government conspiracy involving the dumbing down of america.

    of course, i love stephen king comments. he just loves to give his two cents and he is generally correct.

    i am reading nothing at the moment. this makes me a terrible person. also, i say “i am not reading anything at the moment” a lot. urgh.


  16. Col Says:

    Which anthology by Iain Sinclair is it? Is it Conductors of Chaos? If so, am jealous, been looking for a cheap copy of that for years.

  17. Claire Says:

    David — she did a pantoum/sestina (?) which I *think* is called The Almanac. Absolutely MAGIC poem.

    H — Hey, non-reading is also necessary. I don’t think I read for about three months last year after I was on the reading panel for a fiction prize. I was having to read about four novels a week and just couldn’t face another book for ages after that.

    Col — It is Conductors of Chaos! But hold the jealousy, it’s not mine… I borrowed it from my PhD supervisor :( His office is like my dream library!

  18. Crafty Green poet Says:

    Just finished Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel which is stylistically very impressive but I was disappointed how little the reader gets to know the cahracter after 600 pages of detail…..

    Then just read Earth and Ashes by Atid Rahini - a wonderful very short Afghani novel about a grandfather and grandson, it would make a glorious slow burning film…..

    Non fiction I’m reading a very interesting and readable history of the English language.

    Poetry - a slightly disappointing anthology of poetry about science….

  19. Suzannah Says:

    I am reading ‘Payback’ by Margaret Atwood (about debt, thought it would be relevant for work) and some short stories by Borges in between. Would recommend both!

  20. Col Says:

    Chabon is excellent, Kavalier and Clay is a great book, perhaps a little long, but the first 200 pages are wonderful. Also check out Wonder Boys by him as well. The film of the book with the same name, I should have mentioned in the films about writing post about a year ago. Perhaps the only film where Michael Douglas is actually watchable, and not overly smarmy. Both recommended.

  21. Rachel Fox Says:

    Must be the time of year..I just read a blockbuster type thing too. Mine was borrowed from a friend - Stephen Fry’s ‘Making History’. I started off enjoying it (quite a good story really, some nice details, a few really well-written sections) but then somewhere along the line I got airport novel rash as the pace upped and the writing thinned out. Shame really. But it wasn’t all bad…