Another Strand $1 book. I was so excited to find this, because I loves Jamestown. I love “alternative retellings.” I love post-apocalyptic worlds. This book’s backcover sold me.
Set in the indeterminate but not too distant future, JAMESTOWN chronicles a group of “settlers” (more like survivors) from the ravaged island of Manhattan, departing just as the Chrysler Building mysteriously collapses, heading down what’s left of I-95 in an armor-plated vehicle that’s half-schoolbus, half-Millenium Falcon. They are going to establish an outpost in southern Virginia, look for oil, and exploit the Indians controlling the area.
The story is of course based on the actual accounts of the first ten years of the Jamestown settlement from 1607 to the death of Pocahontas in 1617. Set against a cataclysmic backdrop, the book features the historical charactersï¿½John Smith, Pocahontas, her father Powhatan, John Ratcliffe, John Martin, and John Rolfï¿½but in an act of wild re-imagination, akin to Baz Luhrman’s re-interpretations of Shakespeare (the great playwright of the Jamesown era!), Powhaton is half-Falstaff, half-Henry V (with a psychiatrist consigliere, Sidney Feingold); John Martin gradually loses body parts in a series of violent encounters, while John Smith is a ruthless and pragmatic redhead continually undermining the aristocratic leadership; and Rolf’s and Pocahontas’s romance is conducted by text-messaging, IM-ing, and ultimately telepathy.
Despite the grim sounding circumstances and large quantity of spilled blood, it’s a romantic book, a meditation on history and interpretation, told in language that is endlessly delightfulï¿½the jokes, the rhymes, and the rimshot dialogue throw the story’s bleak underside into brilliant relief. It’s a big bookï¿½a cross between the terrific maximalist novels of Barth and Safran Foer and the minimalist magical satire of George Saunders.
The problem? It was awful, and I can’t exactly figure out why I feel that way. I don’t know if it was because it felt very self-aware, or it was too fantastical for me or what. Maybe its just that I had such high expectations for my find? In any case, it was abanandoned about a third in. If anyone else has read this (a long shot), let me know if things pick up, and I will try to soldier on.
Man, I am on a roll with books I don’t like. Laura lent this to me, and I was pretty psyched to read it, but – I just can’t get into it. It could be because the day I started it, I wasn’t feeling well and maybe that tainted the whole thing for me, but I am about 100 or so pages in, and I am still not gripped. It’s the true story of a counterfeit bottle of Thomas Jefferson wine – I think I also just have a problem with oenophiles – maybe because I just don’t have that kind of palate myself? In any case, I have so many books that I am psyched to read, that I just feel like this book is weighing me down, so for now – abandoned.
Oh! I did learn a new term. “Narrative non-fiction.” I think that sums up the kind of books I (normally) enjoy.
I was a little unsure if I was going to blog about this one, but in the interest of honesty – here I am. I picked this book up in my previous failed visit to the library (they didn’t have the books I ordered available yet). This was the kind of book that I picked up, had a feeling I wasn’t going to like, but “maybe it had promise” and I only had two books and … I grabbed it.
I started it on the way home last night (I had finished the other two books). The premise is the story of an Iranian Jew living in the 20th century who comes from a long line of Persian Jews. It’s funny – now as I try to sum it up, I realize why I knew I wouldn’t like it. I tend not to like books that span multiple generations. I find that I can’t really identify with anyone or keep all the names and relations straight. This was compounded by the fact the names were (understandably) Persian. I am really bad with non-familiar names – reading anything in a fantasy genre for me is an exercise in multiple notecards. I can do multi-generational/protagonist stories if they are somehow weaved together, or only two or three generations and set up into two or three separate parts of one book. This wasn’t. There was a family tree at the beginning of the book that I kept flipping to, and I just couldn’t keep anything straight. The other two dealbreakers was that almost halfway through the story, Peacock (a girl) was FINALLY born – and I realized that the rest of the book would probably be about her, and I just had nothing invested yet. That, and the book had a bunch of “magical realism” and I was just … uninterested. Oh, and it was my subway stop.
Unless it really gets desperate around here, I probably won’t pick this up again. I can live with not knowing what happens, mainly because I am not sure what happened already.
Ironic that my longest post so far is about a book I didn’t finish?
All I heard about this book was that it was funny. Reluctantly, I picked it up. I think I kind of knew it was about zombies, but all I really heard was “funny.” I should note here that I am really, really scared of zombies. And funny?! It’s Mel Brooks’ son! I heard funny, I expected funny – not gruesome depictions of zombies walking the oceans, undead.
I read it on the way home (from our amazing victory at kickball!) from the city, on the subway at 1am. I didn’t really read – more like glanced. And then I stopped. i was scared and jumpy and eyeing the possibly zombie-infected homeless man in the car with me.
I made Frank stay on the phone with me the whole walk home. I will not be finishing this book. A magazine will have to do it for me tomorrow. Thank god Saturday is library day.