"There's only one hard and fast rule in running: sometimes you have to run one hard and fast."

Thursday, August 19, 2010

(A little running and) Books I Done Read

Got in 12 very slow miles this morning and my heel didn't give me trouble until the last mile or two. I was trying to think of why it seems to be an off-and-on problem - usually that means there's something structural that's loose and moves back and forth from a good place to a bad one. What I noted was that the plastic heel counter on that shoe was broken. Going through the old shoes sitting around, there were a few like that. I think that maybe the extra flexibility in the heel from not having a rigid heel cup might make running less painful.

Just when I quit, something says there might still be a glimmer of hope.
I've been a little behind on my reading the past few months. I think the last time I did short reviews I'd just read Ian McEwan's "Saturday" (okay) and J.M. Coetzee's "Slow Man" (also just okay).

"The Plot Against America" by Philip Roth is a parallel world history of the United States if pro-fascist Charles Lindbergh had become president in 1936. With only a few minor lapses, it follows plausibly enough. Roth has always been hit-or-miss with me but this one falls in the middle. Not a bad read.

"The Master" by Colm Toibin is a fictionalized biography of Henry James. If you're a James fan and really wonder about his sexuality, this book's for you - otherwise, it's about as dull and dense as James' later works.

"Drop City" by T. Coraghessan Boyle is about a 1960's commune that moves to the wilderness of Alaska and their more conservative neighbors. I've never been big on Boyle. The book has some interesting things to say about different approaches to going "back to nature" and about clashes of personality, but it's not worth the investment of time to read.

"The Sea" by John Banville is a very subdued, slow and sad story. It starts with some very purple prose, but settles down to a decent story. If you stick with it, it grows on you and I ended up liking it. This should be used in creative writing classes; if you can't write sentences like Banville does, you shouldn't be a writer - but then you should steer clear of writing sentences like he does. (I'm suggesting that it's like saying you shouldn't do abstract art until you prove you can do representational art.)

"On Beauty" by Zadie Smith is a complete change from "The Sea" and it's hard to imagine how one could like both books, but I do. Smith's books are breezy and humorous, filled with characters that just barely avoid being caricatures and are very much representative of a time and a place (in this case, the present in Washington, D.C. after a brief intro in England). A few times she seems to edge stereotyping people and there are a couple of coincidences that seem unlikely but which are forgivable.

"The Collected Poems of Weldon Kees" was a birthday present. Kees is a forgotten poet, but at times a very powerful one. I've read this book several times; at first, I marvelled at some of his effects but careful study has removed much of the magic and mystery.

"Wilderness Tips" by Margaret Atwood was also a birthday present. I've not been a big fan of Atwood, but I've also read mostly atypical works of hers (such as "The Handmaid's Tale"). This is a collection of short stories, which, while published individually - and I'd read some of them in The New Yorker - do work as a group. Atwood seems better suited to the short form than to the novel; there are individual passages that I found myself picking out as being both incisively true and well-composed and which makes me wonder if I'd thus enjoy her poetry.


Glaven Q. Heisenberg said...

Hahahahaha! Beat yo' @$$ to a review of Drop City by like 6+ months!

EAT IT, SteveQ!1!

SteveQ said...

G: Just read your review - I'd forgotten you'd done that and I had read the review way back when.

Not many comments on your blog back then!

PiccolaPineCone said...

that's how i feel about atwood as well, there are some phrases that make me close my eyes and savour what i have just read. there are others that make me wonder how many layers there are to what she is saying and how many i am missing. what i dislike about her writing are the ever present themes around gender wars, but i dislike the generalizations that are inherent in writing on the struggle between genders.
so glad you have potentially found a low tech solution to your running woes. i was thinking after post the other day (a few posts ago) that perhaps what you need most of all is just CHANGE, something drastic in your training, not sure what just something radically different. something less like work and more like enjoyment.

Samantha said...

Just have to say that I love what I've read of Atwood. Which isn't all that much, I guess. Handmaid's Tale is actually my least favorite but I loved Oryx and Crake and it's about time that I re-read it.

DCS said...

I hate rigid heel counters and blame them for exacerbating the problems caused by my Haglund's deformity (surgically corrected). My all time favorite training shoes were the original Nike Huaraches, which featured an elastic thong in place of the heel counter. Sadly, Nike stopped making them after only a couple of years. I spotted a new release of the Huarache and eagerly bought a pair, but they weren't at all like the original.