Thursday, April 13, 2006

Europe Central

Books, books, books:

11. "New York Underground" by Julia Solis
12. "Europe Central" by William T. Vollmann

The latter is the finest book I've read in quite some time. To quote from an e-mail I sent a friend while immersed --

it's really hot shit. I've never read him because of a nagging feeling that he's too smart for me, but this one (supposedly his most accessible book) is just ... really good.

It's long, and about war, and a big chunk takes place in the USSR, so reviewers call it "the new 'War and Peace'" blah blah blah. Whatever, it's great, and I honestly feel in reading it that I'm witnessing genius. I'll refrain from describing it as it doesn't lend itself to easy description, but yeah, great stuff.
Getting through the last half didn't change that opinion any. It's not something to enter into lightly, and I'm well aware that I perhaps wasn't even aware of half the stuff he had going on. It's extraordinarily ambitious, and accordingly, sometimes overreaches (in particular, the character of Elena in its various incarnations is so laden with symbolism that it tends to eat up every scene she's in), but I'd rather read something that shoots for the stars over something that remains on safe ground.

To repeat myself a bit -- I felt like I was in the presence of genius reading this, and that's not something I toss around too much.

NYT review here. Registration required and all that.

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