18th Five Books Finished Here in 2008
(Austen, mysteries, manga, rock)


090) Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, finished October 6
    I like this book. Persuasion is better, but this one's quite good. If it were 80% its current length, it would be even better. And ditching the chapters-long epilogue wouldn't have hurt either.

    Some of the characters are oppressively caricaturish (notably Mrs Bennett --- it's notable how much more rounded she is in film versions), but overall, this is an excellent book deserving of its two-hundred-years' praise.

    But surely I'm not telling you anything you don't already know.

    two or three weeks

089) The Colorado Kid by Stephen King, finished October 3
    Friends, if you've been wanting to read Stephen King but have been put off by all those swears, have I got a book for you! The Colorado Kid has almost no swearing (and none of the heavyduty earblasters). In fact, this story isn't typical King at all. And, notwithstanding its pulp cred, it's not much of a pulp novel either. Take this (wonderfully pulpy) cover:

    Stephen King's Colorado Kid

    First, it never says Steff is drop-dead gorgeous anywhere. Just pretty. Second, she never has a tape recorder. And, if you could see the details, the newspaper headlines are wrong too.

    Basically, the book consists entirely of two old Yankee geezers telling young Steffi the nonstory of the Colorado Kid.

    I've read a few mysteries in my life, but this one (like the last one) is actually a mystery. Most mystery stories aren't mystery stories at all --- they're solution stories. And I'm sure that's what most people want from a 'mystery' story. Me too maybe. Usually. When I read them.

    But I liked this mystery story. And I liked that it was a mystery.

    And I like its cover. Wish I'd bought some other Hard Case novels for a dollar when I had a chance.

    two days

Mr White's Confession 088) Mr. White's Confession by Robert Clark, finished October 1
    Except for a weird decoration atop the first pages of major sections, this book is a masterpiece of the paperback art --- who knew such a thing existed? But it's wonderful to touch and to look at and I've loved having it on my nightstand.

    I got it from Picador to review and I'm happy to say that, unlike some other Early Reviewer books, this one I can openly recommend.

    It reminds me (in good ways) of Paul Auster's perfect City of Glass. Similar questions posed in a mystery environment about memory and reliability and goodness and reality. It makes me want to jump right in to my new copy of the New York Trilogy or some other high-end pulpy mind massage.

    (Off topic: as I was reading, the title character passed through Forks, Washington. So I told Lady Steed, who was lying next to me reading one of Stephanie Meyers's books. She looked over my shoulder and said, Hey La Push! Yes, Mr White goes there too.)

    Mr White does not live in Washington. He's a Saint Paul boy with a faulty memory and the bad luck to get accused of murder.

    This book does not read like most books in my acquaintance. It's not dead set on being either tragedy or comedy, and I'm still not sure which it really was. If you agree with Hugh Cook that any death spells the end of comedy, then comedy this ain't, because people most certainly die.

    I hate to talk about this book in too much detail, because watching it unfold is fascinating and endlessly unexpected. And I don't mean unexpected in the gotcha sense, but rather, that this book doesn't feel scripted: it unfolds much like life itself and, like life, even what must be may not be. Life isn't big on sticking to a schedule.

    Which is probably the best explanation as to why I can't determine if this is tragic or comic. Terrible things happen to bad people. And the results are awful. But, maybe, in the end, it was good for them? I don't know. I'm not sure. I can't say.


    Wesley is hardnosed but human and to see him finally live . . . . And Maggie! How she - - - And how Ruby was taken just when - ! And that bastard We----.

    I will find it hard not to love this book, even if we decide to call it a horrible and cruel tragedy.

    I admit that I am partial to books with well-drawn characters, and these characters are exquisite.


    My buddy Darin, veep of marketing at Picador, put a card in this book saying he would be happy to send a copy of Mr. White's Confession to any "friend or colleague . . . whom [I] would like [him] to send a copy of this book [to] in [my] name." So if you would like a copy of this book, give me your name and mailing address, and I'll email it along. The comments section is fine, or my email address is in the column to your left (unless you're one of those lazy reader-users), or you can contact me here. Getcher own! Discussion questions in the back!

    a weekish

087) Concrete: Fragile Creature by Paul Chadwick, finished September 28
    I started my Concrete journey over a year ago and only now found this volume, the first I ever knew of, at our library. It was nice to come to it, now that I know who Concrete is, and read another tale.

    Concrete, like Madman and Hellboy, is a character who seems to meet the primary qualifications for "superhero" but, really, is actually merely a human being under peculiar circumstances.

    In Concrete's case, he's been transfered into an alien body that makes him Thinglike --- he is massively heavy, incredibly strong, hard to hurt --- but it's not in him to take on all the world's evils. Instead he becomes a travel writer with the occasional oddjob to keep solvent.

    In Fragile Creature he's working on a movie set.

    In brief, Concrete is a wonderful character with good friends and a strange life.

    And to have his humanity cut off from the world by being stuck in a rock case is, at times, heartbreaking.

    Check your local library.

    Paul Chadwick's Concrete

    three hours, tops

086) Lone Wolf and Cub Vol. 1: The Assassin's Road by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, finished September 27
    So I've been mangaing it up lately, with first volumes from Old Boy and The Drifting Classroom and now the wildly famous Lone Wolf and Cub, inspiration for Road to Perdition which I read a few years ago and, frankly, remember liking better.

    Maybe it's not fair to judge a manga by its first volume, but there doesn't seem to be much to this one besides violence, violence and violence. Really violent violence. And dang sharp swords.

    I would read more Old Boy if it were easy and more Drifting Classroom if it were close to easy, but, reputation or not, I just can't see much reason to pick up volume two of Lone Wolf no matter how easy (or free) to run down it may be.

    The primary problem is, that in all this violence, the lead is never in risk of meeting his match. Put up against someone of any skill level--or any number of someones!--and he'll whupp 'em. Where's the story in that?

    Frankly, I'm disappointed. The idea of a rogue samurai traveling with his three-year-old son and killing people is intriguing but, sadly, kinda boring.

    I think more manga needs to be published in full-story size, like Ode to Kirihito. Granted, Lone Wolf is a series of short stories and not a serial novel (or something), but if Old Boy or Drifting Classroom were single-volumed, I would be much more likely to read manga. But reading first volumes that, alone, cannot be good enough to inspire the fanaticism required to run down the following seventeen (or seventy thousand) is never going to convert me.

    (Sorry, Eugene.)

    Lone Wolf and Cub

    two days



  1. I agree with you on P&P. I love it overall, but Persuasion still rocks my socks.

    That could also be because I'm starting to identify much more with Anne than with Miss Eliza Bennett.

  2. .

    I found Anne more easy to identify with than most other characters I know.