Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void, by Mary Roach: So good! Hilarious and fascinating the whole way through. It's about all the aspects of space travel you don't normally think about in detail: nausea, psychology, disorientation, hygiene, food, toilets, showering, sleeping, digesting, relationships, claustrophobia, chimpanzee behaviors, and so on and so forth. I'm always a little skeptical of popular science books written by non-scientists but in this case it's a benefit: she's a great writer and describes things from the perspective of an incredulous, amazed outsider, which is of course how readers see it too.

Tenth of December: Stories, by George Saunders: Obviously he's a great writer, but not my cup of tea. Mostly, he's really a downer.

By the River Piedra I Lay Down and Wept, by Paulo Coelho: This book is as awfully melodramatic as the title. It seriously didn't have a single redeeming quality. I want those three hours of my life back. I only kept reading because it's really short and the ending was alluded to from the start and I wanted to see how they got there. It was meaninglessly anticlimactic.

In particular: When a girl who consciously abandoned religion as a child and consciously takes a cautious approach towards relationships then meets her childhood friend and fall in love overnight and refinds her faith in the next 48 hours after that so she can join this man she effectively just met in his religious path for the rest of their lives, who on earth could take that seriously? It sounds like a story by an 11 year old girl who has just enough sense to at least pay fleeting lipservice to the idea that maybe you shouldn't redefine your whole self in an hour for a boy you've just met.... but not enough sense to realize that anyone who does so is transparently not to be taken seriously when they claim they honestly had a revelation about their life philosophy.


JohnRaymond said...

I haven't bought a book by George Saunders yet, though I've read very high praise of his writing. When I scanned his books on amazon, I suspected what you confirmed. Hmm, don't know if I want to experience great writing just to be down in the dumps afterward, but maybe it makes you think and is worth that price. Am I right?

Vera L. te Velde said...

I'm way too exclusively left-brained to understand how fiction makes people think, unless it's designed to in a thinly veiled way (atlas shrugged, zen and the art, 1984, etc). the rest is just consumption utility... but he's definitely good. and they're short stories so easy to taste test.