Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Bookworm's progress report #2

As I recently undertook the maniacal task of rereading Books 1 to 6 of the Harry Potter series in preparation for Book 7, I haven't been faithfully following my preset 2007 reading regimen for the past few weeks. Since my last progress report, I have only managed to cross off 2 more novels on my to-read list: Marisha Pessl's Special Topics in Calamity Physics, and John Updike's Towards the End of Time, both of which I brought to Europe with me. The former I managed to finish, thanks to all those long bus rides between cities, but the latter took me another 2 weeks in Manila to slog through.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics was a great choice of traveling companion: intelligent, informative, quirky, funny and surprisingly deep. The setting (an elite private high school) and its protagonist (a terrifically precocious teenager reminiscent of Holden Caulfield) made me think the story would be similar to Curtis Sittenfeld's Prep. Compared to Calamity Physics though, Prep seems as substantial as cotton candy. Whereas Sittenfeld chose to dwell on teenage emotions and hormones (albeit handled not in the usual brainless, vapid way of chick lit and Hollywood), Pessl delved into adult thoughts and ideas, as sifted through the incredible brain of wise-beyond-her-years 16-year-old Blue Van Meer. Blue is one of the most memorable characters of contemporary literature I've encountered; not since Tyler Durden of Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club has a 3-dimensional fictional character seemed to occupy my head and make it resound with a singularly strong voice. I have to give Pessl props (in spite of my extreme writer's envy) for a spectacular debut novel (and it has a super cool website too!).

On the other hand, Towards the End of Time was not the ideal book to bring on a long trip. The synopsis was promising enough: a sci-fi story centering on a retired investment banker and his life after the war between the US and China. Despite the intriguing premise, I nodded off in the middle of a paragraph more than once, and there was little interest to sustain my efforts at turning each page. John Updike, like Philip Roth, is a writer with excellent command of the English language; however, like Roth, he fails to get me thinking, much less feeling any sort of empathy with their characters. I went through both authors mechanically, like a student required to read something for school. Hopefully, the other Updike and Roth selections on my reading list will be more engaging.

Now that I'm done with HP Book 7, it's time for this bookworm to get back on track. Next up, The Book Against God by James Wood. Until my next progress report.


At Wednesday, July 25, 2007, Anonymous Karen said...

I loved Special Topics in Calamity Physics! :) I can't wait for the film adaptation :)It's just as good as The Secret History (Donna Tartt) <-- I think you'll like this, too :)

At Wednesday, July 25, 2007, Blogger Ailee Through the Looking Glass said...

I hope they cast some good teen actors for the film adaptation! I don't want any Lindsay Lohans or Ashley Tisdales ruining it for me. :p

I shall definitely put The Secret History on my to-buy list if you say it's as good as Calamity Physics. :)


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