Monday, August 27, 2007

A Top Ten Book

I meant to write about Joan Didion's A Book of Common Prayer a few months ago, when I had just finished reading it. That didn't happen, but now that my daughter read it too, I revisited my original thoughts, and agreed with them completely. I rank it among the ten best books I've ever read. It's the first Joan Didion fiction book I'd ever read, and I was blown away. Incredibly interesting and yet authentic characters, extraordinarily real depictions of what a central american country can be like. You have to read it to understand.

Of course I wanted to check what other reviewers had said. Well, the original New York Times review of 1977, written by Christopher Lehman-Haupt when the book came out, was titled No Second Coming. Joan Didion's third novel, it said, was "powerful but flawed", and the main character is "a being out of focus, and ultimately out of empathy".

Which reminds me of Manola Dargis' review of the film Pulp Fiction in the L.A. Weekly many years ago. She hated it. It had "too much dialogue". That review, along with its "Don't Go" recommendation, ran in the L.A. Weekly for months - all through the extended theatrical engagement of the groundbreaking film. And where is Manola Dargis today? You got it. She now reviews films for the New York Times.


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