Now I've struck out twice with Hillary Mantel, first giving up on "Wolf Hall," and now "Bringing Up the Bodies," the sequel to her recounting of the Henry VIII-Thomas Cromwell story. Her latest book, which recounts how Henry deposed of Anne Boleyn, has received universal acclaim from the usual suspects, James Wood, et al. I saw the art in Mantel's writing, but it never engaged me. I never saw Cromwell and the other characters as true, living beings; they remained words on the page. In short, the work bored me, not enticing me to spend hours with the Tudors.
Unfortunately, I had a similar reaction to Stephen Coll's massive investigation of Exxon-Mobil. The book, with all of its in-depth reporting, didn't seem to tell me much I didn't already know.
I'd been on a good roll with books that compelled me to keep reading, first Richard Ford's "Canada," then Buzz Bissinger's "Father's Day." "Canada" remains with me weeks later, including the fact that he gets away with a violation of a rule of dectective fiction, allowing two murders to go unpunished.
Thankfully, I'd picked up James Lee Burke's "Cadillac Jukebox" at the library's discard bin. Burke hits that happy spot between good and bad writing, although "Cadillac Jukebox" has one of the worst sex scenes I've ever read, if indeed I've ever read a good one. (With homage to Lady Chatterly). The post-orgasmic image of a leaping swordfish will stay with me, in a bad way. For a native Louisianian like me, Burke's biggest strength is his evocation of the state's culture.
The summer of our discontent continues with a couple of Nook books, including Harold Bloom's somewhat batty "The Anatomy of Influence." The next "Canada" awaits, I hope.