Sunday, May 17, 2009

Two Books

I still read books, and I still write about them.

#36 -- "Falling Off the Map" by Pico Iyer

#37 -- "Identity" by Milan Kundera

I'd never read any of Iyer's books before, though he's well-hailed as a travel writer. This shows why -- sometimes. It's a collection of very-loosely-themed pieces about places that just ... don't fit in, for lack of a better word. North Korea, Iceland, Australia, Argentina (it's early-1990s, so not all of it applies any more -- I'm a bit pissed that Albania didn't make the cut). At its best, it's really engaging. I'd pay good money to read a full Iyer travelogue on Iceland or Bhutan. Argentina, I presume, has changed a bit over the years but this piece is a little bit haunting. Others didn't grab me as much; Cuba read like an "Our Man in Havana" outtake, Australia read like every other piece of travel writing on Australia I've ever read. But I can see why so many people dig Iyer and I'll look up some of his one-subject books.

As for "Identity," take your favorite college 3 a.m. bull session, and have a really gifted writer transcribe it using two of the least interesting characters possible, and apparently you have a novel. I like Kundera a lot, and judging by the back cover a lot of people liked this one, but yawn. If it hadn't been so short I would have packed it in pretty fast.

1 comment:

rowena said...

ah, he surely is a good writer :)

i want to read all of his books. and if you haven't read his essays yet, i would recommend for you to read them--it would be nice to start with "Why We Travel."