Archive for October, 2010
I dashed out to buy Pulitzer prize-winning journalist, Philip Caputo’s, latest novel, CROSSERS, after reading an enthusiastic review in my local newspaper. I was unfamiliar with this author, but I was intrigued by the promise of a burly border tale. I was not disappointed. This is a generational saga and epic of the southwest, bristling with illegal border crossers and warring drug cartels, studded with outlaws and vaqueros. A dense book, it starts rather slowly, gradually lassoing the reader into a complex, emotional story brittle with sepulchral secrets and spilling with scoured grief.
I was first introduced to Michel de Montaigne (1533 – 1592) about thirty years ago. I was in graduate school. I donâ€™t remember the class, nor the other required readings. But I remember Montaigne. I eventually dropped out of graduate school, but Montaigne stayed with me. It was, perhaps, and I honestly mean this, the most important contribution to my intellectual development from that period. If not the most important, certainly the most long-standing. In fact, when this book came to my attention, HOW TO LIVE, and I received the readerâ€™s advance copy, I happened to be reading Montaigne yet again, as I have done off and on since we were introduced.
In rugged South County, off the coast of Rhode Island, the rustic beauty of the salt marshes, creeks, rivers, and ocean provides the substance and domain of COMPAS ROSE, Casey’s follow-up/sequel to his 1989 National Book Award winner, Spartina. This book begins roughly where the other left off, circa 1989, and then segues to fourteen years later midway through the novel. It is the story of love and family, and the vicissitudes of six or less degrees of separation.
Rose Tremain is not only a prolific writer, but she is a great one. Each of her novels is different in theme, tenor, and topic. TRESPASS, her most recent book, is a dark, eerie and grim themed novel with a definite gothic undertone. Set in the southern part of France, in an area known as the Cevennes region, the land itself is portrayed as something feral and alive, so filled with lush growth, insects, snakes and sounds, that it has a life of its own.
In HEALER, by Carol Cassella, forty-three year old stay-at-home mom Claire Boehning had been living a charmed life with her biochemist husband, Addison, and their only daughter, fourteen-year-old Jory. After Addison sold his biotech company, he and his wife bought a beautiful lakeside house in Seattle, where Jory attended private school, took ballet lessons, and enjoyed hanging out at the mall with her friends. Suddenly, everything turns sour, and mother and daughter are forced to retreat to their vacation home in the mountains of Washington State, while Addison scrambles to recoup the losses that Claire knew nothing about until a store rejected her credit card.
“Tender” and “noble” are two words I have never used to describe a Roth character. In fact, Rothâ€™s usual suspects are razor sharp with a mean streak of self-loathing to befit the most unlikable anti-heroes of the American literary canon. Not to mention, most of his characters are so self-obsessed and entrenched in complicated sexual proclivities that they seldom do the right thing. And much to the chagrin of my feminist friends, Iâ€™m amused, if not seduced, by these delinquent male protagonists, and look forward to their self-deprecating demise each and every time I encounter them.
Which is precisely why my love for Eugene “Bucky” Cantor bemuses me in a way I can’t describe. Cantor, the leading man in Roth’s latest novel NEMESIS, is so decent, so likable in a non-Rothian way, that if you’re a stalwart fan of Alexander Portnoy or David Kepesh, two of the most deliciously depraved characters to ever grace Roth’s fiction, then Bucky Cantor materializes like Mother Theresa. And yet never before have I ached for such a character – identified with such a man whose nobility and innocence would have previously escaped me.
October 16, 2010
Â· Judi Clark Â· No Comments
Tags: 1940s, Holocaust, New Jersery, Newark, Philip Roth, Polio, Time Period Fiction Â· Posted in: Facing History, Literary, Man Booker International Prize, NE & New York, y Award Winning Author