Thursday, January 26, 2012

'A Visit from the Goon Squad' and 'Sputnik Sweetheart'


This week I finished reading Haruki Murakami's Sputnik Sweetheart from 2002 and Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad, last year's Pulitzer Prize winner.

It's not fair to compare them; the Murakami book is shorter and lighter and doesn't attempt nearly as much as Egan's. But I was reading them the same week, so comparisons are inevitable.

I have to say I was disappointed with the Murakami, though I keep thinking that it's somehow unfair of me to feel that way. The book is what it is, and he went on to more ambitious and serious things afterward. While I did find the last 35 pages or so compelling, the first 200 pages were like a warm, light breeze on a hot day, a breeze that doesn't do anything to cool you off.

"A Visit From the Goon Squad," on the other hand, was really exciting -- the chronological scope, the chances she took with characters, the choice to imagine more than 60 years of American history past and future. Very admirable.

Next up: Finishing the serialized chapters of "The Third Reich," then Joseph O'Neill's Netherland, then David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet. Neither of which are short works. To relax I'm reading Patricia Highsmith, and rereading one of my favorite novels ever, Peter Handke's 1972 novella Short Letter, Long Farewell, which has been reissued by New York Review Books.

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