Monday, August 9, 2010

Hiaasen, Boyle, Rushdie: Remaining Unread

Anyone excited about the new Carl Hiaasen novel that came out a few weeks ago? Did you know there was a new Hiaasen? Do you know who Carl Hiaasen is?

Hiaasen, purveyor of the "Florida thriller" genre, is one of those writers who keeps popping up on the periphery of my reading radar. For guilty pleasure reads, he seems like he'd be fun, but I've never quite succumbed to that guilt. His new novel, titled Star Island, seems absolutely ludicrously fantastic — it's a satire about a teen star named Cherry Pye. How could that not be a little fun, even for someone who mostly reads literary fiction?

Anyway, Hiaasen's new novel got me thinking about other writers with extensive catalogs and loyal fans who I've never read. I did an "unread writers" post last year, and it sparked a good conversation. So I figured now might be a good time to do another — to solicit the reading community's advice on Hiaasen, and two writers I've never read (T.C. Boyle and Salman Rushdie.

So, T.C. Boyle, anyone? I have two of his (dozen or so) books on my shelves, The Inner Circle and Drop City but have never taken them down. It seems like whenever Boyle comes out with a new novel, it's always received luke-warmedly. So that's part of the reason I've never picked him up. But I know some people love the guy. What's your take? Any particular Boyle book strike you as exceedingly good?

Finally, there's good 'ol Salman Rushdie, who, truth be told, scares me about as much as a death sentence. Midnight's Children won the Best of the Booker prize a couple of years ago, and of course, The Satanic Versesis one of the more infamous novels of all time. (At some level, wouldn't it be pretty cool to write something that inspires passion and anger enough that people want you dead?) But aren't they both really difficult? His latest two novels, Shalimar the Clown and The Enchantress of Florence, are not exactly spectacular, I've heard. What's your take? Is Rushdie worth a read? 

So, to sum, have you read anything by these three writers? Impressions? Any particular writers on your own "unread, but on the fence" list?


  1. I've never read Hiaasen or Rushdie, but I have read two from Boyle: The Tortilla Curtain and Talk, Talk. I really enjoyed reading both, though I wouldn't count them among my favorites.

  2. You know who I just can't push myself to pick up? Thomas effing Hardy. I keep hearing that he's sooo depressing and there's always something else that just looks better. And yet, I own almost everything the man ever wrote. I'm also pretty eh about Rushdie- I've never read him, but. You know. His ex-wife is pretty hot, so I could be convinced. ;)

  3. I haven't read any Hiaasen or Boyle (though I own a few of Boyle's, including Talk, Talk), but I love Rushdie. I read Satanic Verses ages ago, and I'd like to re-read it, but I also love Haroun and the Sea of Stories. Fantastic book about the art of storytelling, and fairly short. It would be a great way to dip your toes into Rushdie. I didn't find Satanic Verses that difficult and I doubt you would either.

  4. I have read Hiaasen's Skinny Dip. If I were to judge his entire bibliography by that one book, I would say it wouldn't hurt you to skip his works. It was fun, yes, but I think there may be better ways to have fun.

    I haven't read anything by Boyle, though for some reason that I can't remember I have his Water Music on my TBR list. Also, I fully intend to read Rushdie's Midnight's Children at some point, though that will be my first of his too.

    Oh, and Jane Doe, PLEASE read Tess of the d'Urbervilles. You will LOVE it!!

  5. I have read some Rushdie (Shalimar the Clown, Midnight's Children, Enchantress of Florence--Shalimar is my fave of the three) and Boyle (Road to Wellville). Neither author is a firm favorite, but I'd read more of their works. Not a high priority, though.

    Like you, I had Hiassen on the fringes of my radar for years, so I grabbed an advance copy of his latest at the ALA convention. I'm about 125 pages into it and really not impressed at all. I'm so bored with it that I'm not even going to bother to finish it. A lot of the time, the humor seems too obvious or else too outrageous. Not my thing, although not terrible. Mostly not worth my time.

  6. I read Midnight's Children by Rushdie. I liked it. I'm not that into magical realism but I suspect anyone that is would really like it. But it wouldn't say it's one of my absolute favorites.

  7. I've read a couple of Hiaasen novels(including Strip Tease,which was sadly made into a terrible Demi Moore movie)and found his work to be smart and funny,so no guilt on reading him there.

    Boyle,The Road to Wellville was the only book of his I managed to finish(not a good film adaptation either)and a couple of short stories. He's clearly talented but an acquired taste,in my opinion.

    Rushdie's work doesn't really interest me,but I respect his writing,nonetheless. The man has certainly suffered for his art there!

  8. If you're scared of Rushdie I would start with "Haroon and the Sea of Stories". It's considered a children's book but is also a very unique and interesting novel. You can get a feel for his creativity without committing to his more complex work and if you like it, you can move on from there. That was my introduction to Rushdie and I was hooked.

  9. I was actually planning a post, too, about some authors I've really been wanting to read and one of them is T.C. Boyle. I've heard great things about The Inner Circle and also heard The Tortilla Curtain was good. I have never read a Carl Hiaassen even though I feel like I should being born and raised in Fl and there aren't many Florida writers, lol! I also have a bunch of his books on my shelf because my husband has read some... I've heard they're good but just never get around to reading them!

  10. @Lenore - Great - thanks! One vote for Boyle, though it seems like your reaction is the most common one. Good, not great.

    @Jane - Never read Thomas Hardy, either - just the title of "Tess of D'urbervilles" scares me, 'cause I don't know what it means. Rushdie has a hot ex-wife? That pushes him up a few notches for sure!

    @home - Sounds like Haroun and the Sea Stories is where to start with Rushdie - another commenter mentioned it as well. A good friend just said Midnight's Children is one of her favorite novels of all time - so between your and her endorsements, I think I'm sold!

    @Kathy - Ha, yeah, that's sort of my impression of Hiaasen - fun, but forgettable. But maybe it's the kind of fun you have to experience for yourself to truly know that you shouldn't have that kind of fun, ya know? Also, what's the story with Tess of D'urbervilles? I'm too lazy to go 'a surfing to find out... :)

    @Teresa - Interesting assessment of Hiaasen - based on that, I'm not sure I'd like it either. Subtle or clever humor (or even stupid humor, if it's mixed with the high brow, too) is more my speed...

    @Ingrid - Yep, my friend just said if you like the magical realism, and maybe even if you don't, you'll love Midnight's Children.

    @lady T - Wow, we're all over the map here on Hiaasen - this isn't helping me solve anything! ;) Glad to hear you enjoyed him though. Boyle - again, another lukewarm reader. He seems to be the literary equivalent of muzac.

    @Brenna - Thanks for the suggestion. Homebetweenpages above suggested the same thing, so I think I'll give it whirl!

    @Jenny - I'll be interested to see what you come up with and what your commenters say about regarding T.C. Boyle. I've also heard good things about The Inner Circle. Hiaasen: Well, if a Floridian hasn't read him, how am supposed to get motivated to?! ;)

    Thanks everyone for the great comments so far! I love discussions like this and hearing about your experiences with writers I haven't read.

  11. I personally enjoyed The Enchantress of Florence- it's a thinking book, but I liked it. I know people who did not, though. It has a really interesting take on gender roles. I think it's even better if you know a little bit about Mughal India. I've not read The Satanic Verses, and I only got briefly into Midnight's Children- I still WANT to read those, but... no idea when!

  12. Never heard of the first one. I always seem to skip over TC. I loved Satanic Verses. I thought it was funny, inventive and intelligent. But I think Bolano hated the guy. There is some tricks going on. I don't mind that. Of course, I like Pynchon, too, so I like the sly ones.

  13. Rushdie is my favorite author but not all of his books are worth it in my opinion. As much as I loved Midnight's Children I cannot understand how anyone who does not know the history of India can get through it. The meaning of some passages are lost on those who do not know the Indian struggle to be free.
    The Satanic Verses is long but well worth it and Shalamar the Clown is heartbreaking.

  14. I haven't read any of these, but I've been trying to hype myself up to read Rushdie for a very long time. I have copies of The Satanic Verses and Midnight's Children sitting on the shelf, but I always seem to find a reason to read something else. Like you, I find him a bit intimidating.
    I've never tried to read Carl Hiaasen. I imagine that I would find him quite amusing, so I'm not sure why I haven't gotten around to trying any of his stuff. The comments here haven't been so positive about him, but I'd still like to see for myself.

  15. About Tess--I read it in my pre-blogging days and so, of course, my memory of it is very vague, though I do remember that I loved it. The story is about a poor young girl named Tess Durbeyfield who finds out that she's actually a descendant of the rich d'Urberville family. She goes to live with the D'Urbervilles and is first seduced and then discarded by a bad boy. This taints her later relationship with a good boy. And it's nowhere near as goopy as it sounds when I describe it.

  16. I've never read Rushdie, though I have two of his books on my shelves, including the infamous Satanic Verses. But see, I'm doing the whole 100+ book challenge thing this year, and somehow I don't think that the doorstop that is Satanic Verses will help me get there. Next year, I guess.

    I do like Carl Hiassen's books, especially his young adult books. His adult fiction is light and funny, which is exactly what I need occasionally. I consider it brain candy-though from your other commenters' posts it's clear some of us feel like a nut, and some of us don't.

  17. I can't comment on the first two authors, but I have read Rushdie's Midnights Children and The Satanic Verses. Satanic Verses is a very hard read and I didn't get a lot of it. Something that you definitely have to read more than once to really understand. Midnights Children wasn't as hard, and I really enjoyed it. Mixed feelings I suppose, but definitely worth giving a try!

  18. I picked up Satanic Verses when I was in high school, which I admit was probably a mistake. I pushed through half of it and then gave up. Thinking that the misconnect was probably my fault, I recently tried to listen to Shalimar the Clown. I was less than impressed, and now I'm starting to think that I just don't like Rushdie. I'm giving him one more chance (Midnight's Children, I think) and then I'm putting him away for good.

  19. @Aarti - Well, I definitely like them there 'thinkin' books'...I hear ya on the 'no idea when.' Feels like I'm constantly behind on...something.

    @Ken - Hiaasen's pure brain candy - you should read and review him as a public service to your followers. No doubt he'd inspire quite the hilarious rant!

    @Sari J - Wow, now that's a ringing endorsement for India. I don't know much about India's history, admittedly, so maybe some pre-reading will help before taking on Midnight's Children?

    @Pete - That's a good way to put it: "Hype myself up for Rushdie." That's how I feel too. And regarding Hiaasen, I'd just like to see for myself too.

    @Kathy - Ohhhh. Tess is a person and D'Urbervilles is a family...Makes more sense now. Some reason my brain was blocked to understanding that. ;) Thanks for the explanation!

  20. @Heather - Yeah, if expediency in reading is your goal, The Satanic Verses probably isn't the best choice. If anything, I think the comments have further intrigued me about Hiaasen - everyone who has read him seems to have a strong opinion!

    @Becky - Well, you may have just scared me off permanently from Satanic Verses. Midnight's Children, though, is still a possibility - people seem to like that one much more anyone. Satanic Verses just has the name recognition because of its notoriety, maybe, not necessarily its quality.

    @Patrick - Wow - Satanic Verses in HS? I can understand the negative reaction. Outside of a comment or two here from folks who like Shalimar, I've never heard anyone else who enjoyed it. So, I might be with you - just trying Midnight's Children and letting that be the Rushdie Gauge.

  21. I've read Hiassen and I liked him. For me, his books are what I'd consider brain candy, but he's funny. I'm not rushing out to get his books though. I haven't really loved any of T.C. Boyle's novels, but I am a HUGE fan of his short stories. I'm also scared to try out Rushdie, but I want to read Midnight's Children.

  22. I've tried Boyle twice (Water's Music and something else that escapes me) and not made it through either. I will try again though - I am fascinated by FL Wright, so I know I will eventually pick up The Women.

  23. Greg, I'd say all three are worth a read. Now, what's this about guilty pleasures? I thought we didn't believe in those....

    At any rate, Hiaasen is hilarious, but he's also a little thought-provoking. T.C.Boyle is a first-rate ass as a person (in my one limited encounter with him when I was a bookseller, in which he dissed me not once but THREE times), but a gorgeous writer. Drop City is my favorite. And Rushdie...although I haven't read any for the last few years, Midnight's Children, Shame, Satanic Verses, The Ground Beneath Her Feet--all wonderful.

  24. @Julie - Nice! Another plus vote for Hiaasen. Brain candy's definitely okay. Ah, TC's short stories - that's something new. Thanks!

    @Lorin - Makes sense that you'd be interested in FL Wright. I didn't know he is what The Women is about - wasn't there another book our recently - Loving Frank, I'm thinking - that is along the same lines?

    @Rebecca - Did I say I didn't believe in guilty pleasures? Whoops. I must've mis-written, then - I definitely, definitely believe in the occasional brain-turning-off book. Hiaassen is thought-provoking, eh? That's a new one - now I'm even more interested. I've heard that about TC Boyle being an ass - but I can separate the art from the artist, so I still may try him...

  25. I agree with Brenna - If you want to get started in Rushdie, start with "Haroun." I loved it.

    I'm currently nearing the end of "Shalimar the Clown" (Why are the books I like always the ones that get pushed aside??), and see where it doesn't quite live up to the brilliantly massive scope of "The Satanic Verses," but I like it just the same.

  26. No, no, no--I'm the one who mis-wrote. I don't believe in the *concept* of guilty pleasures...if it feels good and doesn't hurt anyone, why feel guilty? If I feel like watching Beverly Hills 90210 once in a while (and I don't force my significant other to watch with me, as that would cause pain), then why feel guilty? Same with books.

    I'm just sayin'...

  27. Tortilla Curtain is the only TC Boyle book I have read and I loved it! The subject matter is very timely. It seems, based on comments here, that people have mixed opinions of Boyle's books - I hope I find the next Boyle book I read as enjoyable as Tortilla Curtain.

    As for Rushdie, I am in the middle of Midnight's Children now and am surprised by how much I like it - I was intimidated by Rushdie but I am not finding this book very difficult.

  28. I've read three of T.C. Boyle's books and have a few more in my TBR. I liked "Talk Talk" because the protagonist, a deaf woman, is portrayed as strong and kick-ass!

    As for Rushdie, I have two of his books in my TBR and I keep telling myself I *should* read him. But so far have not!

    Hiaasen...I really know nothing about him. Maybe I read too many serious books?