Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Paul Auster

Man in the Dark

I loved New York Trilogy as much as anyone, but in occasionally reading Auster's books since then, all I have learned is that it was a fluke. They are usually not terrible, but never once has he come close since his first collection of novellas. Man in the Dark is more of the same, but possibly not as good. It is a completely rambling tale that reads like a rough draft of a few different ideas crammed together.

A man suffering from insomnia lies in bed making up stories to get himself to sleep, unsuccessfully, though it worked wonders on me. From time to time he drifts out of sleep to think about his daughter, living upstairs, or his granddaughter who is also living upstairs. They have all three recently lost their spouses, though all completely separate from one another, and are living in a sorry state together in one house. It sputters to a conclusion, and you can almost see Auster lose enthusiasm as he was writing.

Suffice it to say that the book is appropriately morose, yet somehow lacks depth, glossing over important details while lingering in mediocrity. If someone handed it to me on the street and I read it knowing no details, I would assume it was a creative writing assignment penned by someone who will probably switch majors.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Mark Kurlansky

The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell

The Big Oyster is a book every New Yorker, amateur historian, and oyster lover should want to read. It will not let them down, but I do wonder what the small set of people who fall outside these groups will think. The history of New York is fascinating, interspersed with colorful characters and anecdotes that make history so entertaining. There is probably too great an importance placed on oysters, but what the hell, I'll bite.

Novices will probably find the many simple and complex oyster recipes a bit tedious, but then again, they might produce some converts. I am one of those who believes the best oyster recipe is also the simplest: Shuck and eat. Sure a splash of tabasco or lemon is great, horseradish and wasabi add a nice bite, grilled and roasted oysters have a certain character to them, and fried oysters are delicious, but nothing beats a freshly shucked briny oyster swallowed whole from the shell.

By the end, you definitely get the point: New York is an oyster town that destroyed its capacity for oysters through polution and gluttony. The book though, suffers the same fate as most books like it that explore history through one small prism, it gets repetitive. There are lots of moments like this:

And do you know what was at the bottom of the civil war? Thats right...OYSTERS!

All in all, a very entertaining read, highly recommended for people who love the subjects and a little less so for those who don't.