Monday, April 21, 2008

Book Review, Etc

Everyone was sick at my house this weekend, off and on, including me (a migraine Sunday, although the migraine meds worked for once -- yay! -- and it's gone now): which means everyone was grumpy, including me, and almost nothing got done.

Also the seder Saturday night, which I had to clean house for, and also the kid is off to Tulsa to visit the zoo with her school today, on a school trip which has me a bit edgy, since surely nine years old is too young to be crossing the country (okay, it's like 110 miles, but still!) very nearly on her own?

Anyway, all of which is to say that I spent all day yesterday prepping for class today, and, inbetween that (it was Chaucer's The Shipman's Tale, and going through nine papers for students who are meeting me for conferences, and reviewing my notes and the reading for HEL*, and my background for Hayao Miyazaki, whose film, Howl's MovingCastle, I am starting in WLIT II today). When I wasn't doing all that, and cleaning the horrible house, and trying to make the kid and mr. delagar feel better, I was reading One for Sorrow, an interesting book, though (as the kid would put it) odd.

Not that odd is bad.

It's Christopher Barzak's first novel, I believe, and he's got a nice voice; also, his main character, Adam, steps out of the normal modes -- not a Mary Sue by any means, and not a lost prince, and not a brilliant and misunderstood genius, blah-de-blah. True, he can see the dead and from time to time drifts into other dimensions, but that, in this book's worldview, is not precisely an advantage.

Also, he's a working class kid. That alone made me want to keep reading. His father builds houses; his mother, though she stays home with the kids, is not June Cleaver -- she's pissed at her fate, and takes the car out drinking when she and the old man fight. His brother does too much dope. His grandma dies on him. There's enough money, but not enough for fancy crap like trips to the nearby city to visit museums, and his visit to his girlfriend's house lets you know how tight his family's budget is -- though his family doesn't have it as rough as Jamie's.

Jamie is the ghost, the kid who visits him, moves in with him, more or less -- sleeps with him, sort of. This is an interesting move. Jamie is his shadow-figure, and his demon lover, and his Belle Dame Sans Merci, but also a scared kid. It's an intriguing mix.

Jamie was also, before he was murdered, in love with Adam -- and this I like a lot, since Adam, though he clearly loves the girl in the book, also loves Jamie. This rejection of sexual categories -- I'm gay, I'm straight -- for something else (I love these people) is one that doesn't often get made. One really good scene in the book is one where the gay bookstore owner attempts to reach out to Adam, to explain how all his problems stem from his trapped sexuality -- which the reader knows as well as Adam just is so wholly reductive, especially at that point in the book. (Although, nonetheless, the bookstore owner comes off well, and remains, at the end of the book, one of the few people Adam can trust.)

Anyway, it has some problems, this book, but it's intriguing and well-written, worth the time.

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