Sunday, October 14, 2007

Delayed post: Book reviews: "The Raw Shark Texts" and "Book Lover"

Two very different books but heopfully reviewing together will make sense!

The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall
It's rather telling that just as the website for the book (above link) is full of the same tricksiness as the book, so too it inspires other equally tricksy sites, alongside some positive reviews.

For me, I enjoyed this book in the same way I enjoyed - and continue to enjoy re-reading - Danielewski's "House of Leaves".

Just as I like The Princess Bride for its tricksiness of fairytale telling (even as it lovingly recreates a similar narrative), so too I can really enjoy intentionally tricksy texts like Hall's Raw Shark Texts and Danielewski's astonishing debut novel.

The Raw Shark Texts has at its heart a range of sci-fi ideas and movies, alongside obvious Moby Dick and Jaws references: but alongside the typographic visual stunts there is both an intriguing exploration of self and a very traditional love story. I couldn't ask for more.

Book Lover by Jennifer Kaufman and Karen Mack
In apparently complete contrast< I now bring you a brief review of Book Lover, a book being largely sold as 'chick lit', although actually it's a lot smarter than that (and its partly why these two books go better together than you may at first think).

A trawl through the reviews on Amazon alone makes it clear that whilst there is a light edge to the tale, as a fictional working of the topic of 'books about books' it was obviously going to appeal to me. Woven throughout are references to books and their writers, readers and subjects: Dora (our supposed heroine - though she is far from likeable) is a book addict, and as any book addict knows, we can know and recognise our own kind in an instance.

Perhaps what also enabled me to enjoy the book is hinted at in its original US title: 'Literacy and Longing in L.A.'. No surprise to find I read this in the wake of our holiday to LA so at least some of the references meant something to me (indeed, it was wonderful to be able to visualise some of the locales).

Taking the story of a world-weary rich kid who wants love to be something more than real life seems to throw at her, who wants the intellectual stimulation that so arouses her senses, it would be easy to tire of her spoiled attitudes and excess lifestyle. But as we realise that she can and does have a heart - and that not all that can seem wonderful IS wonderful - we follow her story with increased interest just as she links her own to her favourite classic narratives.

There's a nice list of refs at the end (and the end of the story DOESN'T neatly wrap up everything as you might expect). Like The Raw Shark Texts, it is knowing of its tricksiness in referencing literature, even as it provides a romp of a chick lit read. Again, a thoroughly enjoyable read.

1 comment:

JoeinVegas said...

My goodness L, it looks like you spent all of Sunday at the computer composing posts. Good reviews though.