We were sitting on the rooftop patio, shaded by a thatched grass roof. It was a formidable 30-something degrees celsius. The azure sky yawned above us. The air was as thick and delicious as a sun-kissed, sea-lashed soup. I had a Sol in one hand and not two connecting thoughts to rub together.
But I like winter, I reminded myself lazily. In the distance, the local deluded rooster (with questionable cicadian rhythms) belted out a sound as absurd as the idea that I love freezing my nuts off three quarters of the year.
As absurd as the idea that books should always be challenging, different, exceptional.
I read six books while away that week. I'm a little bit smug about that fact. It's not like I was reading Tolstoy but I spanked my To Read pile and it felt like nothing at all. An easy conquest. But not too easy. Perfect. Here's what I read:
- Boldface Names: Shinan Govani is the National Post's gossip columnist. I got exactly what I was expecting with his first novel - tons o'name dropping, jet-setting, party attendance, frippery and general fluff. What I didn't expect was for the novel to read like an extended column - the whole thing is written in quips. This can be endearing (the term "lychee martini socialist") or infuriating (every piece of banter with his beard of a wife, Rory). There are occasional nods to Truman Capote-eque wit, like his horror at a brain dead socialite confusing Sudan with Sundance and admitting that it takes real work to keep stupidity at bay. However, the whole thing is lighter than air and a touch too saccharine. Thank God Govani keeps the plot moving, however thin it may be, and you have to give him credit for that.
- Misery: Aptly named. I was miserable reading this piece of work. You can say whatever you want about its commentary on the price of fame or the changing relationship between author and reader, you can tell me that it's a brilliant portrait of a tormented mind and of the hunted becoming the hunter, you can tell me that Stephen King is a master of suspense, GO AHEAD, but that doesn't change the fact that I don't want to read a book about someone being tortured! This book succeeded only in grossing me out. There I was, in paradise, reading about a sick chick bashing some guy's kneecaps out for the fun of it! Brilliant!
- An Education: Lynn Barber's story was once mine, though I wasn't conned nor was anyone else. Funnily enough, neither the film nor the book struck a chord with me. Barber's early relationship with older con man Simon takes up only the first part of the book and her attitude towards it is deliberately distant and disinterested. More attention is paid to her vibrant writing career (she wrote for Penthouse and Vanity Fair, among others) and her relationship with her beloved husband. It's inspiring to read about a woman who dedicated her life to being herself, and that alone, but the memoir is rather terse and can feel impersonal. Still, you'll read it in an afternoon and I don't think you'll regret it.