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21 November 2009

So, so, so... What'cha reading now? I'm quite enjoying an unusual debut mystery novel, The Broken Teaglass by Emily Arsenault. [More:] It's about an old murder with clues hidden in the "cit" files of a dictionary publishing company. Two young editors come across a couple of very strange citations for certain words that seem to be referring to the publishing house itself, and set out to determine what ties them together, and how to follow the clue trail. A murder mystery for word nerds.
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“Charming and witty are not the usual adjectives used to describe a mystery novel, but in the case of Emily Arsenault’s debut, all expectations and definitions must be relinquished. Not since A. S. Byatt’s Possession have I come across such a fascinating secret history as the one hidden within the pages of The Broken Teaglass and the ones we all carry inside us.”—Christopher Barzak, author of One for Sorrow and The Love We Share Without Knowing

“This debut novel has a delightful premise, crisply drawn characters, and a subtle sense of humor. Word nerds, too, will enjoy the peeks at the procedure of making a dictionary. . . . The very definition of a promising debut.”—Booklist

“Arsenault's quirky, arresting debut ... [is] an absorbing, offbeat mystery–meets–coming-of-age novel that's as sweet as it is suspenseful.”—Publishers Weekly
posted by taz 21 November | 01:14
I'm doing a radio set and I just baked bread for Rosemary to use to make her lunch in the morning and now I am doing up a banana bread so i am not reading but my last favourite book was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.
posted by arse_hat 21 November | 01:29
I am just now, a decade after the fact, reading House of Leaves. I'm finding it incredibly disturbing and I've almost bailed out twice, once out of boredom, once because I found it disturbing. I don't like the author's "show-off" attitude, but so far it hasn't completely put me off, and the story has me hooked.
posted by BoringPostcards 21 November | 01:31
That sounds awesome.

I just started Somebody Else's Daughter, which I'm enjoying, but am only just about 50 pages into.

The Amazon tags for it are cracking me up, since they pretty much perfectly describe the kind of book I'm likely to pick up off the shelves without knowing anything about it other than the jacket copy, which is what I did with this one:

san francisco
mental illness

Though, really, "life"? That's a tag?
posted by occhiblu 21 November | 01:32
Yeah... I was conflicted about that one, too. The premise is incredibly creepy and riveting... yet the gimmicky stuff eventually put me off so much that I was just really cursorily scanning great big chunks of it.
posted by taz 21 November | 01:34
Oh, and I just finished Double Fault by Lionel Shriver, who is quickly becoming one of my favorite novelists ever.
posted by occhiblu 21 November | 01:34
(oops - my last comment was re House of Leaves!)
posted by taz 21 November | 01:35
yet the gimmicky stuff eventually put me off so much that I was just really cursorily scanning great big chunks of it.

And then there are those huge chunks you're MEANT to skip over. Or at least I think you are. It's that cleverness that's wearing me down, but I'm close enough to the end I'll definitely finish it now.
posted by BoringPostcards 21 November | 01:40
"We Need to Talk About Kevin" by Lionel Shriver was just utterly searing. What are your other favorites by him, occhi?
posted by taz 21 November | 01:44
Just finished Book 11 of the Iliad.

I'm ready to turn in now.
posted by jason's_planet 21 November | 01:59
taz, I've read Kevin and The Post-Birthday World, both of which I loved, though Kevin gave me nightmares for a while. I haven't been able to find others in the bookstores, and I haven't yet scoured Amazon to see what's published here.

(Also, the author is female; she renamed herself with a male name at some point.)
posted by occhiblu 21 November | 02:28
How Buildings Learn: What Happens After They're Built, and it's really interesting.
posted by TheDonF 21 November | 03:18
Ah, yes... I do remember something about that, now that you mention it, occhi. I totally forgot.
posted by taz 21 November | 03:21
Just finished A Gate at the Stairs.
posted by Obscure Reference 21 November | 04:18
What do you think about it, OR? I see it has quite mixed reviews, for Amazon - lots of people thinking it was great/pretty good/okay/awful, which is always interesting to me.

Plus it's available electronically, so I might consider it...
posted by taz 21 November | 04:30
Unfortunately, I'm still slogging through House of Leaves. With pages like this, I can't seem to focus too much on it for too long, so it has been my purse book for a while. I can usually squeeze in 10-20 pages before dance classes. It's a bitch to read in bed though.

On preview: it's not just me! Yay! (And that building book looks interesting.)
posted by sperose 21 November | 04:32
I am bouncing from a collection of the best of O. Henry and Volume IV of the Complete Works of Theodore Sturgeon.
posted by Ardiril 21 November | 04:59
Just finished reading The White Tiger. Slamming book.
posted by flapjax at midnite 21 November | 06:52
Home Buying for Dummies. :D
posted by misskaz 21 November | 08:31
I just started reading Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, which was a gift to me from a fellow bunny.
posted by essexjan 21 November | 08:49
Middlesex is great, Jan - one of my favorite books!
posted by taz 21 November | 09:06
I tore through Philip Roth's The Humbling, which I loved - probably because it is short for Roth, and because the main dude is/was an actor.

I am slogging through Ian McEwan's Atonement. I'm not loving it. I know there is a movie, I didn't see it, don't even know or want to know who was in it, but it seems like he wrote it thinking "movie deal"! I'm more than halfway through, so I guess I'll finish. Curious what anyone else thought of this one, seems like it was so well received.

I loved Middlesex and liked We Need To Talk About Kevin.

It's library day, if I can get through dam Atonement.
posted by rainbaby 21 November | 09:20
Re: A Gate at the Stairs, at times I loved it and at other times I felt manipulated. In the end, it averaged out to something positive. Still, she should stick to short stories because her sense of size is off. That's all I can say without spoilers.
posted by Obscure Reference 21 November | 09:22
I loved Atonement, rainbaby. Stick with it, I hope you'll find it's worth it. Ian McEwan can be very hit and miss for me. I thought 'Saturday' was dire.

Wish there was a decent library round here.
posted by essexjan 21 November | 10:05
I just finished Columbine (on Metafilter recommendation). Very good and not rubber-necky or disaster-porn. Mostly an analysis of the mythmaking culture surrounding traumatic events. Then I read Koltlowitz's The Other Side of the River.

I started Katherine Neville's The Eight (based on this thread) but it didn't hold my interest, so I returned it. I grabbed Colin Cotterill's Disco for the Departed because I had loved The Coroner's Lunch. It's charming. Although the story is convoluted, it's not confusing and I disagree with that reviewer on that point.

I had Mom request Existence; a new dimension in psychiatry and psychology from one of the Unis on interlibrary loan for me. I've been meaning to read The Case of Ellen West since college and seemed like now was as good a time as any.

I also picked up a bunch of books on juvenile justice and juvenile law so I can write something. So I can go to graduate school again or so I can get a !!$#^%$^%$%#@ job that doesn't make me want to kill myself.

rainbaby: I never got through Atonement.
posted by crush-onastick 21 November | 10:18
re House of Leaves: I thought it was ultimately disappointing. I get that the fraying of the personalities and the loose ends are part of the terror of the storyteller's narratives, but it did not work for me. The parts about the house (the characters' narratives), where the visceral impact of the events are all established observationally, is really good. I don't know how you manage to convey internal terror or conflict or horror simply by describing the incomplete record of the events, but those parts manage it.

I suppose this is one of those comments that people roll their eyes at and say "You missed the point!" but it needed to be tighter, in my opinion, to truly interlock Johnny Footnote. As it stood, he was not a compelling addition to the obsession of old man critic's observations and deconstruction and he was not sufficiently relevant to the experience of the dysfunctional house-dwellers.
posted by crush-onastick 21 November | 10:25
Reading American Lion, the Andrew Jackson biography. Fascinating, even if I don't like Jackson much.

I am looking for some sort of authoritative but readable book about the peopling of the Americas. There are several out there; I'll just have to choose one.
posted by danf 21 November | 10:34
I'm reading Nixonland, which is also fascinating. Richard Nixon is one of the few people I find more repellent the more I know about him.

Just read The Night Watch, on the recommendation of a previous metachat thread, I think. I liked it OK. It was a bit depressing for the mood I was in at the time.
posted by gaspode 21 November | 10:37
I bought Glenn Beck's "Arguing With Idiots" as a gift for a person that will appreciate the WTF factor of it all. It is a very irritating book; and it frequently points out that all the politital parties have done for decades is to create a hatred that has accomplished very little.

For the reading habits and views of the intended recipient; it will be received well. Otherwise; it is objectively a horrible book. Poor writing style, cheap and quick research, -zero- solutions expressed for the issues examined, cut and paste quotes, and blame in all directions. A good bathroom reader for it's audience.

posted by buzzman 21 November | 11:43
I'm halfway through How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'n' Roll: An Alternative History of American Popular Music, which is an absolutely fascinating look at the evolution of popular music and chronologically digs into the minutia of what as happening around the music to shape each event. Despite the title, it's not a rock based book (halfway through and I'm still in the 1930's) - most of the focus so far is on jazz. The research this guy did is incredible, I've read loads of music books and articles and I'm amazed at how much I've never heard before.

The book is more scholarly than most other music books I read and, despite how well it's written, it sort of takes the fun out of music. It's very clinical and pretty dry, but the subject matter is captivating enough to hold my interest. Although I'll admit I had to take a break and read another lighter book (The Guinea Pig Diaries: My Life as an Experiment) because I wanted to laugh a bit. But now I'm back to the world of musical minutia.
posted by Slack-a-gogo 21 November | 12:01
Another Atonement dropout here.
posted by Obscure Reference 21 November | 12:06
I am an Ian McEwan fan through and through, and loved both Saturday and Atonement, Saturday even more. Haven't seen Atonement the movie, though, not sure I will. Sometimes I will deliberately not watch a movie after I have enjoyed the book version so much. I broke that rule with the Golden Compass last year, and I am still disappointed.
Currently I am reading the 2009 Man Booker winner, Wolf Hall, and I am LOVING it. Hillary Mantel can write herself some historical fiction, I tell's ya. The two other books that have blown my mind this year are Anathem and The Children's Hospital. Anathem was a hearty slog, but completely paid off. The Children's Hospital was one of those books that I was sad to see it end, it blew me away from start to finish.
I plan on getting around to Columbine, but I still find the whole event so sad to contemplate, it's hard to pick it up. House of Leaves is one I have had on my reading list for a long time, but it usually gets pushed out of the way by more recent books. The same with We Need to Talk about Kevin.
Whoever hasn't read Middlesex or anything else by Jeffrey Eugenides, for that matter, should immediately run out and get his work.
Oh, also, Netherland, by Joseph O'Neill was another great book I have read this year. That man knows how to put a story on paper, yes he does.
I love it that other bunnies are big book nerds. I think that is part of why we like each other so much. Book nerds rule!
posted by msali 21 November | 12:22
msali, I love Hilary Mantel! So far I've read "Fludd" and "Beyond Black" and they both blew me away. I'm so glad she won the Booker. I must get "Wolf Hall"!
posted by taz 21 November | 12:32
I just finished "Inherent Vice" by Thomas Pynchon, and will start on "Vineland" next. I'm trying to work my way up to "Mason and Dixon".
posted by eekacat 21 November | 12:53
I'm just back from sauntering through Utrecht buying a big pile of second hand books. 'Ashenden' from Somerset Maugham is what I just bought and started reading. Apparently it has been inspired by the writers experience in the British secret service in Russia during the 1st world war and is the first example of the gentleman spy character and as such an inspiration to Ian Fleming. The Uhr James Bond.
posted by jouke 21 November | 13:33
I'm hastily scribbling down mental notes from this thread. I've been casting about for a new book for, oh, weeks, and in the meantime re-reading some handy favorites. The last day or two, it's been Carl Sagan's The Demon-haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. The pages are all felted and soft around the edges from much handling and from riding around in my purse for so many trips.

The Broken Teaglass sounds like exactly my, uh, cup of tea, taz, so thanks for the recommendation.

I finished Atonement, but it was a rough ride, and come to think of it, that's the last McEwan novel I've picked up.

I first read House of Leaves while housesitting in a big isolated house in a wooded rural area. It was... effective... to be so isolated and disoriented as I was reading it. HoL also caused me to realize that for many, many years now, I've had a weakness for any haunting tale or horror story that uses [modest spoiler for House of Leaves] architectural inconsistency or physics hijinx as a theme. [spoiler is over]

I do agree that the ending is a little too frayed and incoherent; as crush says, that's the point, but I feel like it could be tighter and more effective instead of spinning out into incoherence. That feels like a retreat from the complexity of the story, not a consequence of it.
posted by Elsa 21 November | 13:46
jouke, I was just telling someone how much I enjoyed Ashenden! Which reminds me: Ashenden only came up in conversation because I've also been re-reading Graham Greene's The Human Factor.
posted by Elsa 21 November | 13:50
That's uncanny Elsa. Have you just read 'Das Ewige Antlitz' as well? (book from +/- '20 full of funerary casts of faces of Beethoven, Nietzsche etc.
posted by jouke 21 November | 15:31
I have not. Funerary casts? You have sparked my interest!
posted by Elsa 21 November | 15:37
That's not a spoiler, Elsa; it's a feature! When I was a teen, I collected books and stories about houses whose insides were bigger than their outsides, and I had close to three dozen. I even threw in a token Dr. Who book for the Tardis although the writing was crappy.

As for Atonement, I got through it but as I recall (it has been years, so some of this may be off base), I thought the gimmick McEwan used was too understated in the first section. ] SPOILERS [ Reading through the Amazon reviews, I see that many readers missed the point entirely that as a young teen author, Briony was an unreliable narrator, moreso due to her inexperience with criminal procedures (and writing about them) than as a literary device. Thus the contrived guilty verdict; it was one of Briony's first short stories, greatly talented but somewhat flawed. The last part of the book should have been diced up and sprinkled throughout the first three sections, giving the reader the opportunity to realize while still in the book that she is indeed reading books within a book. As it is, the ending is just another variant of the 'it was all a dream' ending. ] END SPOILERS [
posted by Ardiril 21 November | 15:44
That's not a spoiler, Elsa; it's a feature!

I think so, too! But lately I've become more cautious about plot discussions and spoilers; what I think is the obvious entry-point theme, others sometimes think is an important turning point in a story, so I often err on the side of caution rather than risk spoiling someone's moment of "OH, WOW!"

Many years after "The Sixth Sense" came out in the theaters, I had the pleasure of watching it on DVD with my mother, who had absolutely how idea how the film ended. It was a real pleasure to see her experience the whole storyline, and it's kind of amazing that she'd avoided (or forgotten) the plot as it was popularly discussed.

Similarly, I started reading House of Leaves with no notion of its storyline, and I remember the delicious moment when my skin started to creep, so I'll be a little cautious if it helps preserve some of that moment for others. I don't expect others to do so, and I don't think it's a big deal either way, just a personal choice.

Man, I freaking loved that book, despite its faults. I would love to hear some of your other entries on that list, Ardiril.
posted by Elsa 21 November | 15:56
Earthly Joys. It's okay so far, not as gripping as her Tudor era books.
posted by deborah 21 November | 19:59
Just finished the autobiography of UK politician Denis Healey (pretty good).

Started "Sunnyside" by Glen David Gold, but I think I'm going to abandon it. Loved his previous book "Carter Beats the Devil" but can't get into this one. I just don't care about the angst of rich successful people with no real problems, even if they're Charlie Chaplin.
posted by TheophileEscargot 22 November | 10:18
A cowboy uses his free hand for balance. || Congrats, jamaro!