Archive for January, 2010
SUMMERTIME is the brilliant new book by J. M. Coetzee, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature in 2003. This book is part novel, part fictional biography, part memoir, part alternative history, and an obituary for a living writer. Its essence is the imagined life of John Coetzee from 1971 – 1977 as gathered by a biographer who may or may not be Coetzee himself. The basis of the biography consists of interviews with a few people who knew the author, and fragments from the author’s journals.
The title of Ian RankinвЂ™s latest stand-alone crime thriller is DOORS OPEN, and this title has both literal and figurative meanings. Figuratively the title refers to the “open doors” of opportunities and decisions. “Open doors” are those moments when we glimpse the possibilities of choice and a different sort of future, and during those moments we decide whether or not to pass through that open door, or just walk awayвЂ¦.
If you like humor with your vampires, ghosts in your alternate history, spinsters with superpowers in your period fiction, or werewolves in your romantic comedy, SOULLESS (The Parasol Protectorate) is just what you’re looking for. Gail Carriger’s protagonist is a Victorian woman who has been deemed a hopeless spinster by her own mother because of her too-large nose and Italian heritage. As such, she is forgiven her directness and lack of discretion. Fortunately for all concerned, her excitable and easily scandalized mother doesn’t know Alexia Tarabotti is soulless as well.
THE BUTTERFLIES OF GRAND CANYON names many of the beautiful invertebrates: Rheingolds, cloudless sulfurs, painted ladies, pygmy blues, green darners, and queens. Near the great natural gash in the earth’s crust, some of the human collectors of these delicate creatures find themselves passing through stages of development similar to those of the specimens they’ve netted. For example, twenty-five-year-old Jane Merkle, who has come with her older husband, Morris, to visit his sister, Dotty, and her husband, Oliver Hedquist, is arguably pent up in a chrysalis but may be on the verge of emerging and flying.
I did not want to read this book particularly. I wanted to read the author. Padgett Powell who was, a few years ago, considered by Saul Bellow to be вЂњat the topвЂќ of the list of younger best American writers. I wanted to read him. But not this book. I mean, really, who wants to read a book, even a small book like this one (164 pages), where every sentence ends in a question mark?
In DEVOTION, Dani Shapiro describes her quest to come to terms with the traditional Judaism of her father (which she abandoned), her late mother’s legacy of bitterness and anger, her fear that her only son might be damaged by his early battle with infantile spasms (a seizure disorder), and her inability to relax and enjoy the present, unfettered by neurotic worrying. She was deeply traumatized at the age of twenty-three when her father, who was only sixty-four, collapsed and died while driving his car.