Monday, March 21, 2005

What are you reading?

Via Fragmentary Blue:

1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next 3 sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
5. Don’t you dare dig for that “cool” or “intellectual” book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.
There was an issue or rum, and everybody breathed sweetly on everybody else. A battalion mess was set up in the cave that had belonged to Number 3 platoon's first section, and there were stories of wassailing and Mac singing rude songs to celebrate their triumphal landing in Italy.
They could all hear the noise of battle in Carroceto and Aprilia but there was a lot they couldn't hear, hand-to-hand fighting with bayonets and grenades.

Any Old Iron, by Anthony Burgess
I'm on a kick of reading Anthony Burgess, William Golding, Graham Greene, and Jeanette Turner Hospital these days. I've also recently read my local library branch's total collection of P.D. James.

Jeanette Turner Hospital is an Australian writer, with an intoxicatingly surreal, non-linear style. (The narrative may sometimes get away from me as the reader, but I never feel like she has let go of the reins as the writer--which is my standard for non-linear writing.) She also writes great unconventional, uppity women protagonists and supporting characters--that generally get the crap kicked out of them (often literally) for transgressing the boundaries of patriarchal society. Don't let me understate this: her novels can be absolutely brutal. Because I'm sick right now, I have little tolerance for violence, but the full-out conflict in her novels doesn't bother me the way, say, US political news does--perhaps because the characters are struggling for a worthy goal; because the violence is contextually realistic rather than gratuitous (her most horrifying scenes take place "off screen" a la Hitchcock, and are all the more terrible as a result; no violence porn here); and because her characters have some estimation of the risks, walk into danger with their eyes open, pay the consequences, and then get back up to look for more trouble.

If you're looking for powerful, moving, and troubling fiction, I'd recommend starting with Oyster, followed by Due Preparations for the Plague.
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