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11 March 2009


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I loved Case Histories. Then I had to wait something like two whole days for someone to bring One Good Turn back to the library. Right now I am wondering if it would be reasonable to beat up the people who have our copies of When Will There Be Good News? checked out. They're simply not reading fast enough. I have needs.

I am enamored of Jackson Brodie. All of the characters are wonderful, really, and Atkinson's plots are fascinating-- enough so that I'm willing to forgive her manic dependence on coincidence.

So there you have it, the avowed crusader against Literary Fiction in love with a whole series. I offer no defense, except to say that this is what Literary Fiction should be like: thought-provoking, and written with sterling prose, but without sacrificing story or pace.

LiFi characters spend a lot of time lost in internal thought. Very often this irritates me (see my rant against What Was Lost) but Atkinson's characters engage in really interesting thoughts, be they trivial or profound or ordinary.

The only part of the books I don't like is the Readers' Guide tacked on the end. Oh how I despise readers' guides. I'm not so dim that I can't contemplate the book on my own, thanks.

I'm a huge fan of this book as well, but I completely get the sadness of which you describe. The next few sentences are spoiler-ish. I think it has to do with the tragic mistakes the characters make. This is, to me, is much sadder than normal violent crime as we can channel our emotions into blame. In cases where we don't we have to confront the sadness directly and it is worse.

I think I remember you saying something about having loved this series. And hey, you work in the library--can't you just look up who has "When Will There Be Good News" and go paw through their house until you find it? (People used to ask me "who had" a certain book all the time--which always scared the crap out of me, frankly. I always wanted to ask exactly what they planned to do with that information but didn't.)

I can't say that Jackson Brodie lit my world on fire, especially the way the book ended (I wasn't all that enthralled with the concluding romantic entanglement.) But still, quite interesting. And well done. That foreshadowing/suspense stuff is hard to do, I think, and Atkinson knocks it out of the park.

Ugh, Reader's Guides. Yet another nefarious scheme to get rid of librarians and book reviewers.

Thanks for saying I'm not the only one. I read your sentence about the characters' mistakes, and that could be it--although I think many of the tragedies in this book weren't mistakes, they were just bad luck. Bad luck in family, bad luck in wrong place, wrong time.

I just don't know. The more I think about it the more appealing it becomes to stick with the "must just have been my mood" defense.

I haven't read "Case Histories" or anything by Kate Atkinson, but I understood your reaction to it, which appears the same as my reaction to contemporary British novels.

The characters are usually sad, depressed, self-absorbed, and cynical. No doubt this reflects contemporary society, but who needs it when reading a novel, into which it's nice to escape from everyday reality.

The antidote is an immersion in novels written fifty years ago and more. They take us to the past, another country, and they do things differently there.

I do have a reaction like you described to much contemporary literary fiction, but in this case I don't think the book or the author was to blame. I think it was more the ugliness of thinking about people hurting one another that got me down. You're right that for escapist fare that's probably not the way to go.

I think a distinction could be made, because I do think it is important to face the ugliest facts about human nature. This was a book I enjoyed, but I couldn't read books like it real often. It's interesting, because I wouldn't say "escapism" is tops on my list of reasons for why I read. Maybe it is and I just won't admit it.

I totally agree with you about older novels, though. I just listened to Anthony Trollope's "The Way We Live Now" on tape and it was AWESOME. What's your latest favorite classic?

I read "Emotionally Weird" a few weeks ago, and I loved it! It was really quirky and funny. It was a sort of semi-parallel of "Alice in Wonderland," only with creative writing students. There are several different books going on, and the font changes whenever the narrative voice changes. I'm not sure, but you might find it a more enjoyable read than "Case Histories" (which I haven't yet read).


Thanks for the suggestion; I'd like to read some of Atkinson's non-Jackson Brodie books. But different fonts for different characters? Arrrgh! I know, it's a silly thing to get hung up on, but I hate that sort of thing. I wonder if the authors ask for it or if the publishers demand it. Either way I look forward to giving it a try.

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