Catch-up no.6: four books I’m not going to blog about and why I’m not going to blog about them

Freedom, Jonathan Franzen. I am not going to blog about this book because everyone else already has. I found it a more enjoyable read than The Corrections, and the central character of Patty entirely believable and, whilst frustrating, very sympathetic. It felt to me looser and more confident – less obviously crafted (the result of Franzen’s craft improving, of course). It has real propulsive force and is, in many places, very moving. Main shortcoming, the way the principal family’s children are dealt with: teenage Joey’s story was all about sex and distractingly icky; the daughter Jessica was underwritten. But a very enjoyable read indeed. I think The Economist had it about right:

…for readers who believe the novel to be an old-fashioned thing that, at its best, should bring alive fully imagined characters in a powerful narrative with a social context, his new book will be a huge draw. The author has spent the past ten years doing what he does well and making it better. “Freedom” has all its predecessor’s power and none of its faults…

Netherland, Joseph O’Neill. I am not going to blog about this book because I didn’t enjoy it at all. Dutchman splits from wife and mopes around New York. Plays cricket with a bunch of poor black and Asian guys. Meets a Trinidadian huckster who wants to take American cricket to the big-time. Mopes around a bit more, including with artfully eccentric co-residents of the Chelsea Hotel. Wonders why he is so mopey. And so on. I felt no connection with any of the characters, and this book fails to convey whatever Big Ideas it was attempting to: it is, in short, meandering and unconvincing.

A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole. I am not going to blog about this book because it’s small and perfectly formed and so you have no excuse but to read it. The most brilliantly successful rendering of a disgusting, mean-spirited, deluded main character that I’ve ever read – blown up to literally and figuratively gigantic proportions. For several chapters, the grossness is so extreme that, as with Nick Cave’s Bunny Munro, you question whether you’ll be able to stand it for long. The amazing thing is how Toole manages to make you feel sympathy for the horrid, ridiculous Ignatius J. Reilly without shifting focus (as Cave does by making Bunny’s son the principal storyteller). Instead, the effect is achieved because however mad Reilly’s actions are, the world around him is even madder.

Dr Copernicus, John Banville. I am not going to blog about this book because I already have (a bit).

The real reason, of course, that I’m not blogging about any of these books is that with the partial exception of the Banville, I finished them too long ago for a post to be anything other than a tiresome chore of a brain-dredge. The Orchard Keeper by Cormac McCarthy, on the other hand…


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