Sunday, October 30, 2011

Kitchen Confidential, Gatsby, The Marriage Plot

After several months of underwhelming reading and personal hurdles better left for my nonexistent personal blog, I'm back in the saddle, um, armchair, um, something, with a book.

First up this fall, Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential--fun, breezy, and dangerous to the waistline; I ate my way through this book and enjoyed it.

Next, The Great Gatsby, which I suppose I read somewhere along the way, but which I remembered nothing at all about, except what I gleaned from a high school paper my son wrote a couple of years ago. While there are some lines that stopped me in my tracks, I couldn't help thinking that this slender novel wouldn't make the cut today. Even if one were to allow for the sexism of a book written in 1925, the characters are two-dimensional, and the plot doesn't really get going until the middle of the book. I'm not one of those folks who thinks we should reject the cannon just because of the Dead White Male factor. But why do we keep something on our syllabi when there's better literature out there?

Most recent read was Jeffrey Eugenides' The Marriage Plot. I adored The Virgin Suicides, and very much liked Middlesex (though I thought it needed an editor to help with some bloat and meandering). Marriage, however, was clunky and sophmoric. (Actually, the protagonists are seniors in college, and as the novel progresses, recent graduates.) I'm still not sure what the book was about--a kind of love triangle of young folk, perhaps? Feels written from a distance, by someone who has left those days long behind him. I'll be reading more of Eugenides, but this one didn't do it for me.