I have been remiss in not regularly posting. Here’s my suggestions for your leisure time.
Viet Thanh Nguyen’s The Sympathizer, that just won the Pulitzer Prize. I read it about a month ago and enjoyed it. I think it has special resonance for someone living in San Jose. Old-timer Vietnamese are walking around every day in my neighborhood downtown. Makes me see them in a new light; I “sympathize.” It is a complex and ambitious novel. I didn’t think it worked at the end, just went on too long and tried to get very metaphysical. Needlessly, I thought. The first two thirds are gripping and a delight to read. It is a clever, self-aware novel, but still profound.
Stephen Jarvis’s Death and Mr. Pickwick did not win the Pulitzer. It should win something else: The Rambling Prize for Catering to Literary-Minded Readers Who Love Literary Ecosystems and Dot-Connecting. Hey, that’s me! This 800 pager is so ambitious, so full of trivia, with so little plot (Robert Seymour becomes England’s premier cartoonist/caricaturist/illustrator, only to have his Mr. Pickwick idea hijacked by the writer of the copy, Charles Dickens, and in despair he commits suicide, and Dickens and publisher then claim all the credit for the surprise success of the “novel”), and so deliberately modeled on a Pickwickian smorgasbord of characters and vignettes, that it can feel overwhelming. The book easily makes you want to stay up all night, finding Seymour’s prints on Wikipedia, on ebay (I can buy one for only $100… hmmm), and learning ever more historical trivia. Gadzooks!
Occupied. Pretty good Netflix drama, produced in Norway. About 10 episodes. The Norwegians try to stop pumping natural gas and oil. The Russians, at the behest of the Europeans, dependent on cheap energy, take over in a kind of protectorate. Great subtle politics ensue, marred by a competing desire to turn the story into an action thriller. Good production values.
Music? How about Kasey Chambers – Oh Grace. This live version is OK, the recorded version much better.