Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Oddities and Blockbusters

#13 -- "Darkmans" by Nicola Barker

#14 -- "The Da Vinci Code" by Dan Brown

Two rather polarizing books, with radically different audiences. Barker's book drew my attention by virtue of being really thick and getting a nomination for a Man Booker prize; reviews online indicated that it was a love it or hate it novel. I secretly suspected I'd hate it, but just couldn't ignore it. I'm happy to report that I was really, really wrong. "Darkmans" -- which, as people used to hate to hear me say, transcends any genre (but if it didn't transcend a genre, the genre it didn't transcend would be "black humor horror," which doesn't exist) -- has a slew of memorable characters, a kinetic and original writing style, and I probably would have plowed through all 800 plus pages in one sitting if it weren't for things like "work" and "sleeping" and "bathing." Barker keeps a lot of balls in the air at one time and none really drop. The end's really ambiguous, to the point where Haruki Murakami can only look on enviously, and I know that drives some people nuts. Me, I'm okay with it. "Darkmans" isn't like anything else I've read and I absolutely loved it.

After that, I needed something a little easier and when "DVC" was 50 cents at a work book sale, I snapped it up. I'd resisted for a long time; some people who knew me well told me that it was the kind of plot I'd enjoy, others who knew me well told me the writing would make me crazy. Both were right. The codebreaking and the sleuthing were entertaining; the characters were interchangeable and the style was not my thing. Moved quickly at least, and now, finally, I can stop wondering if I'm missing out.

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