Archive for June, 2010

THE THOUSAND AUTUMNS OF JACOB DE ZOET by David Mitchell

This is a modern, woolly mastodon of a book, a book with tusks and chewing teeth, a throwback to the most towering storytelling in literary history. But it is also a Seraph, a three-paired-winged novel that is full of zeal and respect, humility and ethereal beauty, an airborne creature that gave me five days in heaven. And, it is a sea serpent, because it lifted itself up like a column and it grabbed and swallowed me. Whole.

June 30, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Commonwealth Prize, Facing History, Japan, Literary, y Award Winning Author

WORK SONG by Ivan Doig

These days, one of the more famous attractions in Butte, Montana, is the Berkeley pit—a crater full of acidic water and toxic heavy metals. Now one of the costliest Superfund sites in the country, the pit is a remnant of what was once a roaring industry in the city—copper mining. Before the open pit mining technique as exemplified by the Berkeley pit took over the countryside, much of the copper mining in Butte was carried out underground.

It is this underground copper mining industry that forms the backdrop for Ivan Doig’s latest novel, Work Song. Set around 1918 and early 1919, shortly after the end of World War I, it includes a colorful assortment of characters and backdrops. Chief among these is the protagonist, Morrie Morgan, who, as the novel opens, has just arrived in Butte to make a fortune from “The Richest Hill on Earth.”

June 29, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, Reading Guide, US Northwest, Wild West

THE QUICKENING MAZE by Adam Foulds

Somewhere toward the end of this inventive and imaginative novel, peasant nature poet John Clare muses about “the maze of a life with no way out, paths taken, places been.”

In reality — and much of this book IS based on reality — each of the characters within these pages will enter into a maze — figuratively, through the twists and turns of diseased minds, and literally, through the winding paths of the nearby forest. Some will escape unscathed and others will never emerge. But all will be altered.

June 28, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Facing History, Man Booker Nominee, United Kingdom, y Award Winning Author

BEACH WEEK by Susan Coll

Those who enjoyed Susan Coll’s last novel will be pleased to know that she has successfully recycled a different aspect of the same material in her newest, bitingly witty satire, Beach Week. While Acceptance took aim at the upper middle class suburban hysteria surrounding the college application process, Beach Week is much edgier, a novel whose focus is the post-graduation tradition of high school seniors in the wealthy DC suburbs. During the summer before college, mobs of college-bound spoiled eighteen-year-olds rent, with the sanction and cosignatures of parents, beach houses along the Delaware shore where they engage in a week of bad decisions and biblical-like immorality.

June 27, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Humorous, Satire, Washington, D.C.

WHERE THE GOD OF LOVE HANGS OUT by Amy Bloom

This god of love is fully, fallibly human. Amy Bloom’s love is quixotic, yet consistent; borne of emotion, yet calculated; growing ever strong through time, yet destined to peter out. Nobody has it made; nobody has pulled it all together; nobody is sure of anything, except maybe how unsure they are. In these linked stories, it is not necessarily a good thing to love someone. Love is messy, and will mess you up. It might not even be worth it. Yet, it may be your destiny.

June 26, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Posted in: Short Stories

PRIVATE LIFE by Jane Smiley

After I read Jane Smiley’s non-fiction 13 WAYS OF LOOKING AT THE NOVEL, I valued her choices as a writer who takes enterprising risks, who jiggles out of her comfort zone or creates a wider berth within her artistic province. She retains some of her fixtures–horses, solipsistic academicians, and thwarted women–as she creates this period piece of wedded UN-bliss. In this latest, a novel of a marriage during fin de siecle America, Private Life spans from Missouri to the California Naval Observatory in Villejo, California, from the end of American Victorianism to the Japanese internment of 1942.

June 25, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: California, Facing History, Family Matters, Reading Guide, US Midwest, y Award Winning Author