Friday, September 2, 2011

Book review roundup

1. Ann Patchett, one of my favorite writers, has a new 50-page digital guide and memoir called The Getaway Car.: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life. It's a mix of practical tips about becoming an author (applying to schools, motivating yourself to write) and anecdotes. Here's a bit about one of her favorite teachers (Grace Paley):

Oh, Grace, with her raveling sweaters and thick socks, her gray hair flying in every direction, the dulcet tones of Brooklyn in her voice: She was a masterpiece of human life. There was the time she came to class and said she couldn’t return stories because she had been robbed the night before. A burglar had broken into her apartment and tied her to the kitchen chair. She’d then proceeded to talk to him about his hard life for more than an hour. In the end, he took her camera and her bag full of our homework. I’m sure I was not alone in thinking how lucky that guy was to have gotten so much of Grace’s undivided attention. Another time, she came to class and herded us all into a school van, then she drove us to Times Square. We were to march with the assembling throngs to the Marine recruitment offices chanting USA, CIA, out of Grenada! It was crowded and cold, and after we were sent off down Forty-second Street with our signs, we never did find Grace or the van again.
You can read an excerpt here and buy the Kindle single at Amazon. (Some of the most useful information I've seen yet about having a career as a writer.)

2. Kraken by China Mieville: Easily my least favorite of his books, possibly because it's too similar to his other books. It seems slow despite near constant action, the characters are largely forgettable, and I just couldn't find myself caring about what was going to happen (I finished three or four other books during the time I was reading it). This isn't to say it's without merit - - he makes very clever use of extreme origami, iPod playlists, and trap streets, and after 460 pages, the squid cult at the center of the book finally becomes very interesting. Also, my copy had a fabulous cover by David Stevenson. Available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

3. The Cosummata by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins: It's one double cross after another as Mickey Spillane's Morgan navigates a world of high class prostitution, Cuban exiles, and nuclear scientists. The book features a beautifully-painted (and probably NSFW) cover by Robert McGinnis, and was a nice, manly palate cleanser after The Forgotten Garden. You can download a wallpaper-sized version of the cover here, read an excerpt here, and preorder the book at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.