Friday, March 02, 2007

Welcome to the age of Technicolor

I finished reading Rebecca last night, and in doing so, put an end to my winter Gothic reading binge. No more mansions burning to the ground! No more storms on the moors, or tortured, aloof millionaires! (No more crazy ex-wives? Somehow, that seems to be an enduring theme in literature in general.) I thought of adding Tess of the d'Urbervilles to the roster at the last minute, but I'm told it's not exactly Gothic, and anyway, a girl's got limits.

Rebecca is a wonderful book, but I'll admit that it's better the first time around. I remember being captivated essentially from the first word; this time I found that the first 250 pages or so are kind of...not plotless, exactly, but...subtle, maybe? Extremely psychological? A friend pointed out that this is a novel that could only have been written by a woman, about a woman--the (nameless) heroine spends so much time in her own head, fretting and analyzing and making conclusions and reflecting on herself, that it's both totally recognizable and kind of obnoxious. Anyway, the ending was still suspenseful and satisfying, and Du Maurier does know her way around a red herring. Isn't it about time for a new Rebecca movie? I feel like there's a whole generation that needs to be exposed to this story, and it would all film so beautifully. With Eva Green or maybe Rachel Weisz as Rebecca? Awesome.

Now that I've finished the Gothic list, I'm craving contemporary writing. I've acquired quite a stack of newish books since October, when I started Dracula: there's the newest Traveling Pants book (which must be preceded by a re-read of the previous two, obviously), The Dive From Clausen's Pier, The Double, Life of Pi, Middlesex, The Eyre Affair (does it count as non-Gothic if it's meta-Gothic?),The Best Non-Required Reading 2006 Ed, and probably a few others I'm forgetting. Truthfully, I probably won't make it through that list without at least a dip or two into the classics. Something about recent literary fiction--its sameness, its subtlety, its emphasis on "moment" instead of plot, maybe--makes me a little bit tired; I can't always tell what's good and what's not, and it all kind of seems the same anyway. In the case of Contemporary Fiction Overload, I just bought a beautiful hardcover copy of The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty to keep me sharp, and I have unread George Eliot and Cormac McCarthy waiting for me as well. Basically, I have so many things to read, I may never set foot in the library again.*

For the present, I finally decided on The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, which I picked because I've heard good things about it and also because I love the name Audrey Niffenegger. It feels so light! I settled into bed with it last night and zipped through the first 40 pages. Forty pages in one sitting! That alone makes me love it (though it's also rather pleasant reading so far).

*Yeah, and the Giants may win the World Series this year.


Sara said...

I dunno, I recall Tess being pretty good. . .

Another for your list (if you want to migrate a little) is The Flame Trees of Thika - early 20th century autobiography. I think Auntie Q has a copy, she used to have a copy of the sequel, but it's in my collection now. I wonder if she wants it back?


Liz said...

You know, Flame Trees is chasing me--I'd never heard of it, but it's been everywhere lately. I saw a copy at the church book sale last weekend for twenty-five cents; maybe I'll go back this Sunday and buy it.

(Heh, poor Aunt Q. I've had her copy of Persuasion forever.)

Susan said...

Tess, Middlesex & Time Traveler's Wife - all excellent :)

Sarita said...

Dude, Time Travelers Wife is so good. SOOO GOOOOOODDDD. I read it in about a week, which is fast for me. Oh man. Definitely let me know what you think. I fell deeply in love with that book.

Liz said...

Susan, I've been meaning to e-mail you and say that if you want to borrow anything from my library--books, DVDs, whatever--you're welcome to it. If you want a catalogue, I can tell you what I've got. And I'm happy to walk it over and leave it in the mailbox, or give it to Julian, or whatever.

Thanks for the feedback! I like hearing what the people I like like to read.

Liz said...

Sarah, you can be sure I'll let you know what I think of The Time Traveler's Wife. Possibly in play-by-play format. :)

Heather D said...

No mansions burn down in Tess and I thought it was BORING. Maybe I was required to read it at the wrong age. My mom's summation of Hardy: He writes about grass for pages on end.

I think your problems with contemporary writing (which I so agree with!) may also stem from the fact that you're generally reading Fiction with pretensions to Literature. There's plenty of writing around now (or at least some) that manages to be modern but not so self-consciously writerly. Maybe that's why we love the YA books. Genre books like mystery and sci-fi/fantasy can be good that way. The trick is to find a genuinely good writer telling stories in that genre, while avoiding the masses of pulp fiction. Hence Good Omens. Or Dorothy Sayers. Though she's part of (I think the best of) the great 20s/30s British mystery canon, of course.

OK, guess I've commented long enough now. Do let me know how The Time Traveler's Wife goes. :-)

Liz said...

Heather, I think you may be right. I guess there are kind of two camps in contemporary fiction--literary fiction and genre fiction--and either the outliers don't exist or they're not well identified. I'm not sure. But I ALSO have the problem you identify with genre work: I like the good stuff, but there's so much bad stuff out there!

The Time Traveler's Wife is pretty good--it's book-clubby, to be sure, but I'm not sure that makes it bad. It's well-written and well-thought-through. I'm not sure I have deep things to say about it, but I'm very much enjoying the reading of it. That's nice.