B's In My Bonnet

My summer reading habits this year have, in many ways, been a mirror version of what the majority of people do. A lot of people do the bulk of their reading in summer before the whirl of autumnal activity begins, and their book choices are on the lighter side. I spend the summer catching up on TV and movies I haven't seen, and when I did find time to read this year, it was heavier fare. Aside from the gigantic disappointment of the second Game of Thrones book, the other books I've read this summer have been solid, if not fantastic.

Marcelo in the Real World was recommended by Tasha Robinson over at the A.V. Club, and I tore through it on a camping trip when I probably should have been enjoying nature or something. There's been a distressing theme in pop culture lately with an over-reliance on autistic characters granted adorable quirks or magical abilities by their disability. I can really only think of three times it's been done well: Gary on Alphas, Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, and this.

Marcelo is the teenaged narrator, and his mild form of autism makes for an interesting way of perceiving the things that happen to him and the challenges he must navigate. Like any teenager, it's time for him to start considering what he'd like to do with his life, and Marcelo is pushed to integrate into the "real world" by working in his father's law firm mail-room.

He's confronted by moral quandaries having to do with his attractive supervisor, a shady trust fund baby, and his own father's actions, and when all is said and done, he's matured and expanded well beyond the safe little world he's constructed for himself.

After the passing of Ray Bradbury, I realized that I haven't read as much of his work as I'd like, so I picked up The Illustrated Man, a series of his short stories. They're mostly very dark and twisted, and would be right at home as Twilight Zone episodes. A couple of my favorites were "The Rocket", in which a man devises a way to make a little money go a long way for the happiness of his family, and "The Concrete Mixer", in which Martian invaders discover that fighting back isn't the only way Earthlings can overcome their attackers.

And because I liked Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad so much, I checked out one of her earlier books, Look At Me. It's not as good or as ambitious as A Visit from the Goon Squad was, but still has a lot going for it. The writing is terrific, but the plot kind of deflates at the end. Look At Me also has the same pattern of interwoven storylines and disparate characters, the most interesting of which is a former model who has been in a traumatic car crash. Her face is now held together by a series of titanium screws, and trying to resume anything resembling her life before the accident exposes just how much of an anti-hero she is. Despite the minor problems I had with the plot, it's an interesting book that I'm glad I read.

Marcelo in the Real World: B
The Illustrated Man: B
Look At Me: B


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