Airplane ReadingOverseas flights are a great excuse for buying and reading the delightful literature I tend to call 'trash'. I tend to lean to detective novels, rather than, say, science fiction, or 'thrillers', but all such categories tend to some fuzziness.
My summer travel featured some surprises.
One of my enjoyable experiences was Memory in Death, by Linda Howard, writing as J Robb (ahh, branding). Much to my surprise, when I started reading the book, it turned out that the story was set in 2059! Fortunately, it bore no other signs of being science fiction, and in fact it baffled me it was not set in 2005, as the setting in time seemed utterly irrelevant to the whole story. Nonetheless, not a bad read, and I enjoyed the main character, a policewoman.
Another, and this was a revelation, was Janet Evanovich's Eleven on Top, featuring a bounty hunter named Stephanie Plum. The author had me giggling already on page 1 and it never let up; along the way, there is a not bad mystery novel, which also features quirky family history, as well as some entertaining portraits of a specific world. Evanovich seems very prolific, but also pretty competent.
Now when does the trash struggle to a slightly different level? I also bought Bret Easton Ellis' Lunar Park; there is no question that this was in a different league, and I was happy I started it on a very long flight and so could just read through it without much interruption. Of course I have heard of Bret Easton Ellis, but have never read any of his earlier work. This one starts with a mini-autobiography, which is utterly compelling and entertaining, and then slowly starts a twisted change. Earlier details I knew were true transmute into details that seem less certain (web searches later even confirm some of the false trails, like an invented actress wife who may have had an affair with keanu Reeves, which is wonderful). The novel shifts from seeming to be a scathing self-critical autobiography, and starts to become a bit of a mystery novel. And then it becomes truly zany, as we more or less need an exorcism to get things back on track. But really on track? Well, back to what does seem to be really true, but what was going on in the middle? It is a great performance of sheer writing, shifting styles, dragging the reader all over the place. And those last several pages, taking me back at least to Joyce's ending of 'The Dead', the snow 'faintly falling', those last several pages go utterly nuts with a one-thought riff on the themes that had gone before. It is simultaneously sad and funny, and very beautiful. I would love to read him writing in a more naturalistic style about something I cared about. Much as I enjoyed the ride, in the end it was hard to care much.