Still trying to figure out how to get paid for reading books. I’ve read some good ones lately. They’re the kind of books that get the wheels turning. The kind of books that make me want to write and cause me to despair about writing all at once.
I try to vary my reading to keep things interesting. As of late, I’ve done a nice mix of genre, historical and short story reading. Below are some thoughts on my latest reads.
I’ve mentioned The Adventures of Ibn Battuta: A Muslim Traveler in the 14th Century in a previous post. The book wasn’t as personal as I’d hoped, given that it is a translation of sorts of Ibn Battuta’s Rihla. Basically, Ibn Battuta dictated the contents of this work to Ibn Juzayy, a writer commissioned to chronicle Ibn Battuta’s journey a couple of years after he had already returned from it.
The strength of this book, for me, was the sweeping history and geography lesson provided as I followed Ibn Battuta’s travels from Tangiers to China. The author does a nice job of following Ibn Battuta’s movements and filling the historical context of his destinations. Given the amount of information the book could have contained, The Adventures of Ibn Battuta does a fine job of characterizing the medieval Muslim world without beating you over the head with it.
What a great read!
What struck me most about The Half-Made World, was that it was unlike any story I have read before. The end was satisfyingly unsatisfactory. I can’t help but wonder if there are more novels to come in this world. I hope so.
Here’s the blurb from Gilman’s website:
A fantastical reimagining of the American West which draws its influence from steampunk, the American western tradition, and magical realism.
The world is only half made. What exists has been carved out amidst a war between two rival factions: the Line, paving the world with industry and claiming its residents as slaves; and the Gun, a cult of terror and violence that cripples the population with fear. The only hope at stopping them has seemingly disappeared—the Red Republic that once battled the Gun and the Line, and almost won. Now they’re just a myth, a bedtime story parents tell their children, of hope.
To the west lies a vast, uncharted world, inhabited only by the legends of the immortal and powerful Hill People. Liv Alverhyusen, a doctor of the new science of psychology, travels to the edge of the made world to a spiritually protected mental institution in order to study the minds of those broken by the Gun and the Line. In its rooms lies an old general of the Red Republic, a man whose shattered mind just may hold the secret to stopping the Gun and the Line. And either side will do anything to understand how.
That’s a pretty good summation, but, after having read the book, I can see that it fails to capture the edge that the story has. Although, to be fair, on that same page they do have Stephen Donaldson’s quote:
“‘The Half-Made World’ has a strangely Victorian feel, which I quite enjoy. It’s refreshingly unlike any other novel I’ve read. Felix Gilman writes like a modern-day Dickens drunk on rich invention and insane war.”
That seems about right.
I capped off this disparate trifecta of reading with Sam Shepard’s Cruising Paradise.
Shepard’s writing put me in mind of a mix of Larry McMurtry, John Steinbeck and a little Hemingway thrown in to boot. He manages to capture that everyman crisis in a way that you give a crap.
I wasn’t sure I’d dig reading a series of short stories all at once, but because they were all written in a similar style and voice, it was easy to flow from one to the next.
The Miami Herald sums up this book nicely:
Cruising Paradise, a captivating collection of 40 micro-stories, brooding monologues and eerie dialogues, features a motley cast of loners, losers, introverts and tough guys caught in crisis.Written over a span of six years, these inimitable ‘swiftly told-tales’, as Sam Shepard’s publisher describes them, are a brilliant fiction debut by the Pulitzer-Prize winning playwright.
One thing all these books had in common was their ability to keep me engaged and their ability to show me something in a way I had not seen it. So there you go. You could do worse than read any of these.