Thursday, January 9, 2014

Train Dreams and The Tragedy Paper

Over the weekend I read the novella Train Dreams by Denis Johnson. It's been on my "to-read" list for a long time, and I'm trying to go through and read some of the books that I've had on there for a year or more.

Train Dreams tells the story of a man named Grainier who loses his family under tragic circumstances. I'll be honest, I'm still not quite sure what to make of this book. I almost feel like I should go back and read it again. I had mixed feelings while reading it. At times, I found it to be a little dull. I found myself wondering, "what's this all about and why is it here?" There were also a couple of times when I felt like something was thrown in just for shock value. That said, toward the end it kind of blew me away. I can't say much more or I'll spoil it.

Next I read The Tragedy Paper by Elizabeth LaBan. It starts off with a boy named Duncan who goes to find his new dorm room at Irving, a private school. The tradition is that the previous occupant of the room leaves a treasure for the new occupant. Duncan's room was occupied by a boy named Tim Macbeth who...well, something happened involving Tim the previous year, but through the whole book LaBan keeps you guessing as to what it was. The treasure Tim leaves for Duncan is a stack of CDs, talking about his time at Irving. The story goes back and forth between Duncan's experiences during his senior year, and Tim's. The Tragedy Paper is a good, fast-paced read. Some of it is pretty cliche — the popular high school boy and girl who are a couple (the boy is a jerk, of course), the awkward new kid who comes along to shake things up, and the popular, inspiring teacher. While it's not particularly original, it is well-written and I enjoyed it very much. I can definitely see this one being made into a movie.

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