I finished three books last month, another very busy stretch in a particularly busy semester. I only finished the third because of spring break.
Exile and the Kingdom, Albert Camus
Five short stories by Camus, none of which share characters, form, or narrative structure, but all of which are linked by the anxieties of modern man. With one main exception, each story deals with the interaction between people and society, but from the margins. “The Adulterous Woman” escapes her cold marriage in the dark of night in order to experience the desert, “The Artist at Work” seeks refuge from the press of admirers and friends, and the schoolteacher in “The Guest” finds himself at odds with both the state and the rebels when he tries to express humanity. The stories were engaging, thoughtful, and melancholy, but if you like Camus they are worth reading. The settings are themselves antiquated, but the messages all-too relevant.
The Baron in the Trees, Italo Calvino
Cosimo Piuvasco, heir to the Barony of Rondo, was twelve when he last set foot on ground. He rebels against the rule of his parents and the culinary monstrosities prepared by his sister and takes to the trees, where he lives out his life, corresponding with intellectuals, protecting the fields, hunting, and carrying on love affairs. The story is told through the narration of Cosimo’s younger brother, who relays the curiosities of his brother’s existence. Calvino weaves in elements of Aristophanes’ Clouds, and Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, and a myriad of other adventure tales in order to relate this fanciful story of arboreal existence. This is a delightfully whimsical story that didn’t contain the weight or gravitas of a lot of other books, but I enjoyed it all the more for it. The Baron in the Trees was probably my favorite read of the month simply because it was just so much fun to read.
The Deaths of Tao, Wesley Chu
The second book in Chu’s series, of which I reviewed the first book, The Lives of Tao, here. Chu keeps most of the trademark elements that made the first one so much fun to read, including the pacing and the fight scenes, but complicates the story through structure, content, and characters. The story is set several years past the events of The Lives of Tao and it is no longer the fairly straightforward hero’s journey archetypal story since, for the most part, the heroes have come of age and are now down to the mature task of saving the world…and, of course, things aren’t going particularly well on that front. The Gengix have now taken to conducting experiments in order to make life on earth conducive to their needs, as well as becoming ever less subtle in their methods. I preferred the first book, I think, not because it was worse–by most measures it was a better more sophisticated story–but because it was not as refreshing as the first one was. I still enjoyed it a great deal and look forward to the conclusion of the trilogy.
Since March ended, I read a collection of stories called The Professor and the Siren by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. Next up is Drew Magary’s preapocalytic novel The Postmortal.