Fat Books & Thin Women


Bookish Report from Macedonia
July 28, 2011, 2:54 pm
Filed under: Brief Reviews | Tags: , ,

I’ve been back in Macedonia a few days now. What’s odd to me is that it feels like I never left – it’s like America, all its grocery stores and bookstores and libraries and gyms and running trails, was some awesome dream I had, only I was able to emerge from it with a bag of pretzel M&Ms (just one of many snack foods debuted in my absence!) and minus a few pounds.

All the books I thought I’d come back with, I didn’t come back with. When we got to the airport and found my bag was overweight, all contingency plans (pay a fee or debate which books earned a spot in my backpack) fell apart in the face of (a) crying, (b) trying to explain why I didn’t need a visa to get back in Macedonia. Some of the books I’ve most wanted to read, like The Pale King and Matterhorn, are back in the States so I don’t have to risk leaving them behind in Albania a year from now, and others my dad packed up and mailed to me. You probably still want to know what books I came back with though (right? right?) so lemme tell you: Game of Thrones, Math Review for Standardized Tests, and a new Albanian-English dictionary. Pretty exciting stuff.

The point of this post isn’t just to whine about all the books I failed to pack, or to tell you about all the food I ate (two burritos, Indian, countless fake chicken patties, about five pounds of edamame, roughly twenty bowls of Honey Bunches of Oats), but to sum up some of the books I didn’t write reviews for. Here goes.

Olivia Manning’s The Balkan Trilogy, which I finished just before leaving Macedonia, is a stunning book. The first volume of the trilogy, which I reviewed a few months ago, left me disgusted with most of her characters, who are neither likeable nor easy to read about for a thousand pages, but in the second and third volumes these characters grow a new depth as the war becomes more a part of their lives. I’m looking forward to reading the three novel wrap-up to her six-volume series. Also her School for Love, one of the books that is back in NJ, waiting for me.

After I read The Russian Debutante’s Handbook and Absurdistan I couldn’t say whether I liked or disliked Shteyngart’s writing, which seemed to me a good reason not to seek out Super Sad True Love Story. The library had it on the new book shelf, though, so I read it – and man, am I glad I did, and do I wish I had had time to write a review. Super Sad True Love Story is the first of Shteyngart’s books that I’ve felt adds an amount of heart and depth to his sometimes too-clever writing. I’m not in love with some details of his future world (it’s so easy for company names and other details to devolve into gimmicks) but Lenny Abramov is the first Shteyngart character I haven’t regretted spending a few days with. (Resounding praise, right?)

Although I read Téa Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife before leaving for America, I may still try and get a review out. (Check out the post at What Red Read about how long we wait to review the books we read. I may have left this one too long.) For now, I’m kinda busy “recovering” from jet lag by watching Breaking Bad and reading Game of Thrones…not the worst way to spend a day.

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4 Comments

Wow – The Pale King lost to Game of Thrones, huh? DFW just rolled over in his grave. ;)

Comment by Greg Zimmerman

In my defense, Game of Thrones is a lot smaller than The Pale King.

Comment by Ellen Rhudy

Macedonia must really feel like home. I always feel like that when I come back from a trip, like it was just a dream. The Balkan Trilogy sounds interesting; I’ll have to check it out!

Comment by Jennifer Maurer

I read Super Sad True Love Story and then tried listening to Absurdistan in audio form but couldn’t get into it. I thought it might just be the audio, but from what you’ve said I’m not so sure! You know how sometimes an author just seems to be trying too hard?

Comment by Jenny Colvin




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