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Wanted: Good Fiction August 7, 2006

Posted by Brian L. Belen in Books.

Maybe it’s just me, but I haven’t come across good books in the fiction category for quite some time.

Admittedly, my tastes have been changing slightly over the years. There was a time when I was solidly into science fiction and fantasy; now I think I’ve found my way into more general fiction, plus or minus, of course. The one thing that has remained constant is my penchant for following the works of authors that I do read: I am a serial reader. Neil Gaiman is a given. The Asian Saga of James Clavell is one of my favorites. I am naturally fond of J.K. Rowling’s work as well as Dan Brown’s stuff (I know people feel strongly one way or another about this; but I like the Robert Langdon mythos, warts and all), and the political economist in me takes an inherent liking to Tom Clancy. Where classics are concerned, I have always had a soft spot for Dickens; and after my flirtation with mystery have dispensed with Conan-Doyle as well as a compendium of Agatha Christie’s Poirot stories.

On some level, I think part of the problem is that I expect what I read to be similar to the last three good books I remember enjoying. Two of them are by Ayn Rand: The Fountainhaid and Atlas Shrugged. The second I liked (but had to struggle through) just because I read the first, which was absolutely brilliant. The individualistic philosophy and the idealism espoused in those books (again, more in the former than the latter) just struck a chord. The last book I’ve begun swearing by recently is Carlos Ruiz-Zafon’s Shadow of the Wind. Just thinking of that book brings a smile to my face: I picked it up at a bookstore on a lark, but once I started I literally never put it down until I finished it, which has never happened to me before or since.

Lately, I have been in a rut: none of the titles I have tried out have particularly gripped me. Call me insensitive, but I really didn’t much enjoy The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, despite its critical acclaim. Wicked wasn’t too bad, but as I never read the original Wizard of Oz, I suspect plenty of the nuance was lost on me. The Rule of Four was a let-down, as was The Life of Pi, which I bought into until I got to the ending. My curiosity got the better of me and I took a stab at Salman Rushdie’s Satanic Verses and Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, but both were way out of my literary comfort zone. Arguably the most recent book that I found somewhat intriguing was Audrey Niffenegger’s The Time Traveller’s Wife, though I still do not understand why the protagonists ever fell for one another (but, hey, I’m a guy).

Am I too particular? Maybe. Am I a literary boor? Perhaps, but I hope not. Is there a dearth of decent books? I doubt it, but I obviously need to be pointed in the right direction. I do hope someone helps me out with a suggestion or two in the days to come.



1. yenhttp://his_beloved.blogs.friendster.com - August 8, 2006

any inclination towards C.S. Lewis? i read his Screwtape Letters, and trying to find The Great Divorce. meanwhile, how are you in reading non-fiction-written-in-fiction-mode books? đŸ™‚ Heavenly Man by Paul Hattaway

2. Jon Z. - August 8, 2006

it’s right after lunch and the blood is rushing away from my brain, which might be compromising my reading comprehension.

if Doyle and Christie were on your list (or did you specifically say that you didn’t like them?) – check out Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe series of Private Eye fiction. 6 books in all (i think). It’s classic pulp noir, the foundations on which nearly all of today’s tough guy gritty seedy underbelly noir stuff is built on.

they’re all set in a pretty specific era, so you have to get used to the outdated language and customs. And you have to keep your tongue firmly in cheek because a lot of the writing and dialogue seems so far out overtop. but it’s precisely that over the top style that makes them enjoyable reads. I dunno, I liked them. And I think I’m a little more of an intellectual boor than you. đŸ˜›

3. brian.belen - August 8, 2006

Thanks for the, er, suggestments.

On the C.S. Lewis front, I have read The Screwtape Letters (and going to mass has never been the same again) as well as the complete Narnia series. Funny that pseudo-fiction books popped up in the discussion: I was reading about a couple of titles over Amazon.com, but I’m still undecided whether it’s my thing.

Very much liked Doyle and Christie’s work, thanks (no lapses in your reading comprehension; I wrote what I wrote very poorly). With regard to the former, I do wish I could follow the Poirot stories chronologically as all I have is this compilation of 40 short stories, not to mention Murder on the Orient Express. Will look into the Philip Marlowe series.

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