Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ask Boyfriend

Dear Boyfriend,

Any good book recommendations?

Best,
Needs something to read

Dear Needs Something to Read,

Are there any good recommendations out there, do I have any good recommendations, or are there any good books? The answers to your three possible questions, in that order are, probably, keep reading and most definitely. Let me offer you some suggestions in a few different genres along with a professional critic's take.

If you are at all into Tolkienesque "High Fantasy" (I shudder at the popular connotations of that label, being a devout reader of this type of thing) and not adverse to deep pits of familial depravity and sanguine gobs violence, consider reading George R.R. Martin's 'Song of Fire and Ice' series, and hey, you'll at least be ahead of the nerd-turned-cool curve because HBO is going to make it into a no doubt wildly successful television series. Time's Lev Grossman wrote this about Martin's series:

"What really distinguishes Martin, and what marks him as a major force for evolution in fantasy, is his refusal to embrace a vision of the world as a Manichaean struggle between Good and Evil. Tolkien's work has enormous imaginative force, but you have to go elsewhere for moral complexity. Martin's wars are multifaceted and ambiguous, as are the men and women who wage them and the gods who watch them and chortle, and somehow that makes them mean more. A Feast for Crows isn't pretty elves against gnarly orcs. It's men and women slugging it out in the muck, for money and power and lust and love."

For those interested in more "literary" works, I would direct you towards the late Chilean author Roberto Bolaño's '2666', a dense, 1000+ page novel of mystery, violence, and a modern degrading world tottering on the brink of mystical apocalypse centered on the fictional small town of Santa Teresa, Mexico. It may be helpful before reading 2666 to note that Bolaño wrote it in a race against his own death as an attempt to provide for the future of his family, then again, maybe not, although it acquires yet more subtle flavors of darkness in its contemplation of wealth and pain. Adam Kirsch from Slate puts it thusly,

"2666 is an epic of whispers and details, full of buried structures and intuitions that seem too evanescent, or too terrible, to put into words. It demands from the reader a kind of abject submission—to its willful strangeness, its insistent grimness, even its occasional tedium—that only the greatest books dare to ask for or deserve."

Lastly I will leave you with one of my personal favorites, which is often classified in the Gibsonian "Cyberpunk" genre, Neal Stephenson's 'Snow Crash.' Thematically, it incorporates computer programming, linguistics, anthropology, archaeology, and cryptography, themes which anyone who knows me can attest that I will, when slightly intoxicated, expound upon at length. Stephenson actually popularized the term Avatar as a digital representation of the self with this book. The following is how Timothy Leary described it:

"A fantastic, slam-bang-overdrive, supersurrealistic, comic-spooky whirl through a tomorrow that is already happening. Neal Stephenson is intelligent, perceptive, hip and will become a major force in American writing."

Thank you,
Boyfriend
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