Sunday, November 30, 2014

#38: A Little Lumpen Novelita by Roberto Bolano

A young woman and her brother, orphaned and at loose ends in Rome, slowly turn to a life of crime in Roberto Bolano's A Little Lumpen Novelita.

I have wanted to check out Bolano for a while, and this slender novel was a good way to start.  I was also intrigued by the Roman setting, having been to Italy several times.  A nice touch was that the target of their criminal enterprise is a blind former muscleman who played the Italian sword and sandal hero Maciste in a series of 60s movies.

Rather straightforward in its plotting, but vivid in its writing, this was an interesting novel that should lead readers to more of Bolano's more well-known works.

I borrowed this from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond Indiana and read it quickly.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

#37: The Last Taxi Ride by A.X. Ahmad

An Indian taxi driver gets an unexpected fare when he picks up a fading Bollywood actress; and when she turns up dead the next day, the cab driver tries to solve the crime to prove his own innocence in A.X. Ahmad's The Last Taxi Ride.

Even though the reader might see the ending before our protagonist, the story hits all the right beats as well as being an interesting look at Indian culture, both in India as well as New York City, where the story largely takes place.

Along with some emotional baggage that plays out, our hero fortunately has a military background that helps him out of numerous scrapes involving unsympathetic police, remorseless gangsters, and backstabbing friends.

I borrowed this from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library and enjoyed it quite a bit.  Recommended for those who would like a change of pace in their characters and situations.

Friday, November 21, 2014

#36: A Most Wanted Man by John le Carré

An activist lawyer, a washed-up banker, and a mysterious young man cross paths in Hamburg, and circumstances find the whole of the espionage world watching them, in John le Carre's A Most Wanted Man.

In my opinion, le Carre's forte was the Cold War of the 60s and 70s, and he has fished around a bit since then for subject matter with mixed results.  But A Most Wanted Man is a solid thriller set in the paranoid world of pop-up terrorism. 

Complex and satisfying, shown from multiple points of view, marred just slightly by an abrupt ending; overall a worthwhile contemporary le Carre.

I listened to this on audiobook on loan from Morrisson-Reeves Public Library in Richmond Indiana.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

#35: Last Winter, We Parted by Fuminori Nakamura

A journalist with a hidden agenda intends to write a book about why a popular photographer burned two women to death, but gets more than he bargained for in Last Winter, We Parted by Fuminori Nakamura.

This skin-crawling noir is written in an interesting, fragmentary style which includes pieces of the journalist's novel as well as other accounts of the story told from various angles.  But it is loaded with creepy characters, where every man has a secret fetish and every woman is an evil temptress.

Nakamura's novel The Thief, which I earlier read and enjoyed, also showed the sweating, seeping underbelly of Tokyo, but the author turns it up a notch in this one.  A greasy palette of tastes from sex dolls to S&M to implied incest is on display.

I checked this out from the Morrisson-Reeves Public Library and found it to be a good read, but for darker tastes.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

#34: Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle

A young man, his life transformed by an act of violence, lives out his life managing a play-by-mail adventure game in Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle.

Darnielle's novel reminds me a lot of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and Fortress of Solitude, both novels also infused with a life listening to genre music, watching b-movies, reading comics, and playing Dungeons and Dragons.  And, like these other novels, the cultural touchpoints are veined with melancholy and sometimes tragedy.

Darnielle is the front man for a band called The Mountain Goats, of which I am not familiar; although this will probably get this book more attention, Darnielle's writing can stand on its own merits.

Recommended, for like-minded readers.