Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Alan Furst once more...

Last night I finished The Polish Officer. Furst (read all about his books in the New York Times) only gets better at crafting the time, the place and the characters. When I have to leave these friends at the end of the book, I am left hoping. I referred to the last novel as depressing in another post, but depressing isn't the right word. The realities of WWII were awful. No poetic effusions I could craft would make that any different. Just awful. The Germans and the Russians tramped over the top of the Poles, and that is just a fact, among many other facts about the period. What happens to people's lives, and how radicalized ordinary folk can become is the eternal theme of Furst's work. The germ of conscience, the surprising surge of honor and bravery in those who had considered themselves ordinary folk, continues to fascinate Furst and it fascinates me.These are novels of merit and worth, not genre novels, not what is referred to, irritatingly enough, as "easy reads." The main problem with good writing is that you can't go back, you can't settle anymore. If tricked into reading Furst or Portis because you thought it was genre, or you thought it looked swell, you are caught up in the search for more. I am a reader. I read as a child; I read whatever I thought looked interesting, and my parents never stepped in (She READS! Isn't it wonderful? They were wonderful). SO, I read voraciously and widely. I am not a writer because so many other people have done that already. Too many as it turns out. So much is drek. Now I only read what I want to read, and there are years of books ahead of me that I may not get to in this lifetime. You can be sure Alan Furst's work will top the pile.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Summer...reading...

Light reading has captured me for the last several weeks. After finishing Alan Furst's Night Soldiers I was ready for some M.C. Beaton. The Furst novel was so heavy. A depressing, intricate story of Eastern Europe and the Balkans pre and during WWII, it had an ending that was a surprisingly hopeful one. Furst writes with a dexterity and depth not found in a lot of modern writing, and I look forward to each novel. I know his characters now, and each one is a friend. I have a few Beaton books lined up, and just finished another Lawrence Block Bernie Rhodenbarr novel. This time I read The Burglar Who Thought He Was Bogart and it was the best of the Rhodenbarr's so far! Very witty, very New York. The resolutions of the mysteries in this series do seem pulled out of the woodwork. You don't have the clues in book really, so the books aren't about clever detection as much as about the characters, the city, the humor. I think they make terrific airplane reading, or summer entertainment. Donald Westlake's Dortmunder series is far better plotted, and more entertaining all around, but I will read Rhodenbarr books as I find them, and I love the whole New York City thing.