Saturday, October 30, 2010
My students have been begging me to read this young adult trilogy, telling me that the books fit in with our study of the literature of social justice. Indeed they were just the trick during a run of low spirits, where I couldn't concentrate on anything that required summoning up keen intellect or stamina. The plot-lines worked their spell; and I was able to disappear into the books and forget everything else while I was reading. The first book, especially, is a page-turner. Books two and three ride on the momentum of book one. You won't stop to parse any beautiful sentences or ask yourself how the author did that... but she writes cleanly, the pacing is taut, and you won't stop reading either, as the heroine battles a brutal, authoritarian government.
I love Lorrie Moore. But a month or so after finishing this book, all I can remember is that I thought it was beautifully written, but that I had to work at finishing it. I can't remember a single thing about the plot or characters. I'm going to my bookshelf to read the back cover for a reminder.
Shteyngart is, for me, one of the wave of male literary darlings whose prose is too clever for its own good... style over authentic characters, depth of feeling... Yeah, you're cool. You're a man's man. Get over it. But his take on contemporary values, digital culture, our obsession with youth, and yes, the state of the world, is spot on and well worth the read. The fact that his hero lives in the Grand Street Co-ops, where I lived after college and until Leo was two, made the book even more fun for me. Same old 'hood as it ever was--even in the not-to-distant future of Shteyngart's imagination.