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Wednesday reading — schemes and impostors

What I've been reading

I finished Big Money, although it was in a park and not in an automobile. It is pretty much a classic Wodehousian tale of money-making schemes, farcical misunderstandings, and people who get engaged to more than one person at a time, and so was everything that I could have asked of such a book.

I read The Iron Trial, which is the first book in a new series that Holly Black and Cassie Cla[i]re are collaborating on. Since I love all of Holly's books and read them immediately when they come out and put down Cassie's first (not fanfic) book about seventy pages in as being utterly unreadable, I had decidedly mixed feelings when the series was announced. My feelings about the book itself also ended up being a bit mixed—I felt like the characters were a bit shallowly-drawn sometimes, which seemed more Cassie's style but not ragequittingly so, and I thought the world and the story were fun, even though every now and then it felt like they had brainstormed by thinking of something that Harry Potter does and intentionally doing it the exact opposite way because. (My favorite instance was when Tamara interrupts Callum and Aaron having a moment to ask why boys always have to talk about their feelings.) I will totally keep reading the series.

I read The Quest for Corvo: an Experiment in Biography, a very odd book that I picked up from the dollar shelves at the Strand because it was published by the New York Review of Books imprint, which never puts out anything that is not at least potentially interesting, and its preface was written by A.S. Byatt. It's the story of a man who is recommended an odd novel by a friend and goes on to obsessively research its author, narrating his understanding of the man and his rather tragic life as he uncovers it in letters, interviews and manuscripts. It all seems too good to be true—so many people who knew Corvo recount their experiences with him in vividly-written letters, and all of his fiction proves to be so baldly autobiographical that with slight glosses it can be used to illuminate the portrait drawn from the other sources—but evidently he just was the sort of person who made deep impressions as he careened through life (and admittedly the art of letter-writing is not what it once was) and was incapable of writing or indeed understanding anything that was not centered on himself. Compared with this entirely true account, A.S. Byatt's novel The Biographer's Tale where she could make up anything she liked seems pretty dull in my recollection, although it's been some time since I read it and perhaps I should give it another chance some time.

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