Monday, March 08, 2010

The Flaming Corsage

I've decided to give up reading Catch-22 (1961). I've had the book since 2004 and repeatedly failed getting through the halfway mark: too many darn characters, all with the same type of self-indulgent humor. It gets corny and crude at many points. I also find the writing dated and labored -- he has the voice of a sweet old professor whom you don't necessarily admire.

This was supposed to be my book for the month of March.

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What I did read for March: The Flaming Corsage (Penguin, 1997) by William Kennedy. Immediately after quitting Catch, I picked up Corsage and asked why I had been punishing myself with the former. I instantly loved Corsage and easily breezed through the pages. I thought, here's why people should read: for pure enjoyment. It was also a refreshing change from the last books I've read, which were nonfiction, serious and slightly depressing.

Corsage begins with the mystery behind the Love Nest Killings of 1908, which involves writer Edward Daugherty and socialite Katrina Taylor. She's rich, smart, breathtaking and settles at the highest rung of the social ladder. Edward is equally smart and beautiful (there is a sentence or two devoted to the exquisite quality of his hair, lol), but poor and.. of Irish lineage. (The author does a wonderful and apparently, historically accurate job of explaining the social intricacies between those with Dutch and Irish lineage. To sum: they hate each other.)

It's a veritable soap opera (with a subtle hint of Romeo and Juliet), but one that I read without feeling hollow because the characters speak Edwardian (and I may be using the term loosely, or worse, incorrectly) and The New York Times highly recommends it, lol. It's a definite upgrade from the pleasures I get reading Sidney Sheldon. To heighten my experience, I imagined Carla Bruni as Katrina Taylor. (Incidentally, a script is being written for Universal Pictures.)

I've read more about the author, and learned that Corsage is one of William's five novels that takes place in late 19th and early 20th century Albany, New York. (One of which, Ironwood, won the Pulitzer in 1984.) The books are a grand chronicle of a fictional American-Irish family (from which Katrina and Edward's story branched off), as well as a tribute to the history of the city.

The book may not be available in local bookstores. I picked up my copy two weeks ago at a Books For Less stall in Glorietta at the Buy One Take One bin for P99. The travesty indeed.

2 * :

Anonymous said...

ha! i tried to read catch-22 back in high school; but could not get past the first chapter or so. that and lotr.

i finished lotr ten years later and loved it; perhaps, i should give heller another chance.

Jason said...

Hehe, let me know if you enjoy it this time. I think this book is best read in Kindle so you can easily search back the history of the characters -- I stopped at page 80 when I realized I had over 2 pages of character notes. Just too darn many!

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