Satisfying Book Experiences of 2008 (Part II)

Happy New Year, everybody.  Here are a few more of my favorite book experiences to round out the year.

howls-moving-castleHowl’s Moving Castleby Diana Wynne Jones.  Howl is a hard wizard to pin down–even his castle is always on the move.  The young Sophie Hatter, an equally interesting protagonist, has to navigate her way through a maze of obstacles to find her fortune while under a spell that’s transformed her into an old woman.  Diana Wynne Jones brilliantly combines good old-fashioned storytelling with original, telling details.

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and Twilight by Stephenie Meyer.  I read these books back to back, in the same month.  Two very different experiences of course.  One is the story of an older man with an inappropriate, stalker-like attraction to a barely pubescent girl who, surprisingly, reciprocates his interest, and the other book is… oh wait….  Really, though, Nabokov’s brilliant sentences and mastery of human psychology make Lolita well worth reading and re-reading, and Twilight is a fun, fast read. 

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Benjamin Rosenbaum rocks!

Last Sunday I went to the Brooklyn Book Festival with the very cool Dan Braum, and we hung out at the Small Beer Press booth for a while.  Gavin Grant, the shrewdest capitalist and slickest salesman in all of New England, talked me into buying The Ant King, Ben Rosenbaum’s new collection of short stories (as well as some other goodies).

I started thumbing through it, and ended up reading a whole story, and then read another whole story, and now it seems to have bumped its way to the front of the line ahead of two other books I’d been in the middle of reading before.  (Alway a sign that a book is hottt stuff with at least three t’s.)

In the title story, this poor guy’s girlfriend turns into a hundred gumballs just when they were about to have a romantic first-kiss moment, and then he has to rescue her from the evil Ant King’s hideout deep in the bowels of a water park.  How can a story not be amazing with a plot like that?

In another story, an orange takes over the world.  Metaphor?

Ben’s stories (we Bens have to stick together) are definitely of the slipstream/surrealist school, of the best kind.  A good surrealist story is like a good drag act: it bends conventions in unpredictable and interesting ways but never takes itself too seriously.  Plus, sparkly outfits.  That’s exactly what Ben Rosenbaum’s collection is like.