This installment: a high roller brought low (f); a tricksy suspense tale with computer sleight of hand (f); fun with kids’ books (nf); a horror/comedy (DVD); funny short stories (f); and the joys of a communal swimming pool (f).
Lake Success by Gary Shteyngart
“Excess” is more like it, as hedge-fund trader Barry launches himself on a cockamamie road trip aboard Greyhound—the “dog.” A midlife crisis in which our anti-hero keeps thinking he’s encountering real life but puts such a romanticized spin on it we know he knows not. Back home wife Seema is deeply engaged with their autistic 3-year-old Shiva and with Luis, a faux-Guatemalan novelist neighbor. And Barry’s company is tanking big time. A big mess but guess what—money talks LOUD. Over the top, like Barry and his milieu itself, and a hoot.
Lies by T. M. Logan
One more tricksy, suspenseful novel which I’ve developed a taste for. (And have figured out what will happen.) Joe is a good guy, a teacher, happily married, nice kid. On impulse he spots his wife’s car, follows it to surprise her, and gets a different kind of surprise that morphs into nightmare. There goes his job, his sanity, and possibly his freedom until the (not so surprising any more) denouement. English setting and lots of sleight-of-screen with computers and social media.
Wild Things by Bruce Handy
Subtitled The Joy of Reading Children’s Literature as an Adult. I had a lot of fun with this book, as someone who’s been reading kids’ books for decades, first to me, then to my kids, then to grandkids, and then at library story times. Inside dope about the eccentricities of favorite authors and the vagaries of the publishing world. I admit I cherry-picked my way through it, zeroing in on the books I love and skimming chapters not part of my personal canon. But lots of joy, as promised, as well as sly wit.
Get Out (DVD)
I love to be surprised and this horror/comedy did just that, in spades. Chris, a nice guy who happens to be black, visits his girlfriend’s parents for the weekend and though they seem liberal and accepting, there’s a very weird vibe. Especially from their two black servants. And then the many guests who descend. Mom’s a therapist specializing in hypnosis; Dad’s a surgeon. I won’t tell you how they apply their skills to nefarious doings but be forewarned—lots of splatter.
Hits and Misses by Simon Rich
These short stories are more like shtick than literature but they are very clever and entertaining. Jews, Hollywood, kid stuff—all fair game for Rich’s rapier wit. Great dialogue-you can almost hear the rim shots. For instance, a talent agent parlays Death himself, sidestepping his own demise with the promise of a TV show. Turns out the Grim Reaper had theatrical aspirations in his “youth” and even took two years of tap. You get the picture, and what’s good for a laugh is good medicine in these tense times.
The Lido by Libby Page
That’s the name of a local swimming pool, source of pleasure for many denizens of Brixton. Especially widowed Rosemary who has delicious memories of her husband there. Katie, a young, depressed reporter, gets sucked in when the pool is threatened by developers. Rosemary insists Kate get in the water before their interview and swimming plus community help pull her out of the dumps. Petitions, a demonstration, and all seems lost. But as I’d hoped, it all works out. A sweet book full of sensory detail and lively characters.
Back next week.