More on Elephants & Books

A few weeks back I tried to read Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint. I’m still working on it. In the meantime, I read Water for Elephants and I loved it.

The movie version will be out any moment — with some questionable casting — and what will, likely, be an even more predictable ending in cinematic form. But the cast of characters is worth every moment you spend reading (though it won’t take long at all). From Walter the drunk, dwarf clown to Camel the ancient, alcoholic roustabout they’re all fun and heartbreaking. This is the kind of book you have to put down from time to time because it’s just too much to take…and you’ll put off finishing it because you don’t want it to be over.

This past week when I was driving to and from New Jersey for work, I listened to several podcasts of Slate Book Club. One of them was about Roth’s Everyman, and another was about David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest. I’m headed to a CT Forum Book Club event in about a week, so I’m trying to get into the book criticism mode. And I continue to discover my love of story over literary cred (like street cred but less intimidating).

I’m a sucker for an ensemble cast and a story that keeps me turning the pages. I get rather bored by navel gazing types who are only concerned with picking apart the mundane details of the human condition. So it was a mistake to try and start reading The Corrections again to prepare for seeing Jonathan Franzen at this book club event. Now I’m stuck between Roth and Franzen and their depressing takes on American life — whether it be elderly midwestern types, or self-abusing New York Jews. It will be a miracle if I ever finish either story.

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