Recent readings, and some bold claims

I’ve read almost as many books in the first two months of 2012 as I did in all of 2011. That statement? Not literally true. Give me another two months. Then the numbers will add up.

Granted, I don’t think I’ve picked up a single book with more than 300 pages in it since I finished A Clash of Kings shortly after the new year began. So. There’s that.

It’s been a weird mixed bag; some stuff I might have expected to like and didn’t like too much, some stuff I’ve gotten really excited about. The Rook by Daniel O’Malley was delightfully entertaining; one of those fun books with some good solid brains in it that really deserves to make the rounds. (And when Tina Fey picks up a British accent and nabs the lead role in the movie version, the one I’ve cast and shot in my head, I will be at the midnight showing.) I’m having a lot of fun with the His Dark Materials trilogy, which I look forward to wrapping up this week. There’s a book I’m going to be reviewing elsewhere in a couple months that I kind of want everyone to read.

And then there’s Steve Erickson’s newest novel, These Dreams of You.

I try not to use the phrase “have to,” as in, “you have to read this book,” because at the end of the day, it’s usually a lie. You don’t have to. You won’t die.

Still, you really probably ought to read this one.

I’m coming back around to it to say more, and I plan to spend some portion of the back half of 2012 rereading Erickson’s collected works, because it’s time for that to happen and I want to find what threads of his new book I can in his old work, but in the here and now I wanted to reiterate that These Dreams of You is the book people should pick up and start reading every time they consider complaining about how Jonathan Franzen shit in their Cyber-O’s that morning, or whatever. Which is pretty much all people do anymore on Twitter, I’m convinced.

Because, let me cut through the (slightly forced comparison) crap and lay it out: Franzen, at the end of the day, tried to do some mighty zeitgeist-capturing in Freedom, which he didn’t do so well, but also not so horribly. And then he’s said other stuff. Whatever. He’s human. It’s cool. Erickson, on the other hand, is a god, and in a godly fashion, he took the last 50 years of America and rolled it up into a 300 page story, completely resetting the bar for what Modern American Fiction ought to look like, and basically showing us our soul, and it is a confused one.

I tell you: he nailed it.