What’s a Book Notion? Why, it’s something that is smaller and of less consequence than a Book Thought, of course. I’ve recently read three books that didn’t do much for me one way or another, but I decided they were worth a 3-for-1 post.
The best of the batch was Touch by Alexi Zentner. The book takes place in the northwoods of Canada. The adult narrator is telling the story of the town of Sawgamet. He has recently returned to the town and he is recounting stories from the time that he was ten years old and also the stories of his grandfather who founded the town. Sawgamet was a gold rush boom town that survived on the success of the logging industry. The forests around the town hide magic and monsters amid the timber. I think I would have liked this novel more if I hadn’t read it shortly on the heels of Galore which I loved. Fishing village in eastern Canada v. Lumber/gold town in western Canada – Touch suffered by comparison. I also think it would be a good read during a Houston summer because the descriptions of ice and snow and cold were definitely chilling. But I read it during one of Houston rare freezing spells and I just didn’t appreciate it at the time.
Then I read Hygiene and the Assassin by Amelie Nothomb. I was totally intrigued by that title. The book is translated from the French, published by Europa Editions, a small publisher that specializes in bringing foreign literature to the U.S. It definitely felt foreign to me. A well-known but reclusive Nobel Prize winning author with only two months to live agrees to be interviewed by selected journalists for the first time in years. Essentially he chews up and spits out the journalists until the final, and the only female, holds her own and attempts to call his bluff. The 169 pages of verbal sparring was just a little too high brow for me, and I found the ending especially unsatisfying.
For bookclub, I flew through Don’t Stop the Carnival by Herman Wouk. The most interesting thing about this book is that Wouk collaborated with Jimmy Buffett to make a musical out of it. A middle-age Jewish talent agent named Norman Paperman decides to give up his life in New York City and buy a hotel on a small Caribbean island. New York City it isn’t. The book, written in the mid-sixties, felt very dated. While highlighting the difference between life on the island and life in NYC, the reader couldn’t help but find as much contrast between the 60’s and today. It was pleasant enough to read, but quite unremarkable and unmemorable.