Quick note before offering some abbreviated thoughts on our recent reading: you can now subscribe to The Ape by email. There's a link over in the right hand column that says, coyly, "Subscribe the Reading Ape by Email." So there's one more option for our repeat offe...er...returning readers.
Showing your artistic influences plainly is a lose-lose proposition. If you succeed, you are an imitator: if you fail, your shortcomings are thrown into even greater relief. The three principal influences of Adam Ross’ Mr. Peanut figure prominently in the novel itself: the films of Alfred Hitchcock, the brain-twisting visual impossibilities of M.C. Escher, and the forensic conundrum of Dr. Samuel Sheppard, the man whose story inspired The Fugitive (both the TV series and the movie). Taken together, this pop-culture assemblage doesn’t in the end turn out to be much. David Pepin may or may not have murdered his wife. Same with Dr. Shepard. There are twists, refractions, and indeterminacies aplenty, but Mr. Peanut is more postmodern koan than it is captivating.
This is the kind of book I love, but probably wouldn’t ever recommend to someone who isn’t, well, me. The Quickening is the story of a fraught friendship between two farm women during the first few decades of the 20th Century. Hoover writes the kind of restrained-but-full prose that characterizes so much fiction about farm life and I can’t get enough of it. The quiet fortitude, the daily desperation, and the small victories of these lives and times are all rendered so ably here that I can overlook the relative paucity of narrative interest. This is a portrait of a way of life more than a story. I loved it.
An "accessible" Pynchon novel is like a "domesticated" howler monkey: crazy and fun, but you can’t be surprised when things get messy. Inherent Vice is the love child of Raymond Chandler and Tom Robbins: it has Chandler’s knack for writing inscrutable but compelling noir plots combined with Robbins indulgent, resplendent and absurd joie de vivre. Stir in a little of Pynchon’s special sauce (a surfeit of characters, symbols, and allusions) and you have a charming disaster. Also, bananas make a metaphorical cameo that Pynchon fans are sure to enjoy, then head-scratch over.