Archive for July, 2011
This is a compact sonata of a novel, composed in four “movements.” The title of the last, “Winter Solstice,” might have been a better title for the whole book, set mainly on a small frozen island off the coast of Sweden. It is certainly an appropriate image: the solstice is the darkest part of the year; after it, the days will get longer, but it will still be winter for a long time. This is a book about resurrection, thaw, the slow flowering of the frozen spirit, but it promises few miracles, and even at the end there are setbacks and reversals — a feeling Nordic people must know well in their long wait for Spring.
E.L. Doctorowâ€™s 1974 masterpiece, Ragtime, takes its name from the a style of music, the melodious offspring of blackface cakewalks and patriotic marches, that perfectly captures the optimism and energy of the America in the early 1900s. Itâ€™s aptly titled too, for Doctorow manages to capture the energy of the era, a time of hitherto unheard of growth and prosperity, a time when coal miners took on the capitalists for safer work conditions and fair pay, and won; a time when a single, socially- minded photographer, documenting immigrant ghettos, took pictures powerful enough to move a president and serve as evidence of the necessity of improved housing conditions for the poor; a time when American entrepreneurs amassed more wealth than some European monarchy, through little more than hard work and talent. However, it was also the era of Jim Crow legislation and the venomous prejudice that made it impossible for a black man to materially enjoy his success, say, by driving a shiny new Model T Ford â€“ but more on that later.
July 30, 2011
Â· Judi Clark Â· No Comments
Tags: 1900s, 20th-Century, Doctorow, Time Period Fiction Â· Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, Classic, Facing History, National Book Critic Circle (NBCC), NE & New York, New York City, y Award Winning Author
Hands up anyone who doesnâ€™t know the story of Romeo and Juliet. No-one? Thought not. Chances are you cut your literary teeth on it, and it probably holds some special associations for you. Thatâ€™s why itâ€™s such a good subject for a modern/historical parallel romance story with sinister overtones.
NEXT TO LOVE starts out very strong. We meet three childhood friends in Massachusetts â€“ Babe, Millie, and Grace â€“ whose men are on the cusp of going off to World War II. Ms. Feldman deftly juggles their stories and breathes life into their characters. Grace is the beauty who is married to the heir of one of the townâ€™s most illustrious citizens and has a young daughter; Millie is married to Pete, the pharmacistâ€™s son; and Babe is the feisty wrong-side-of-the-tracks gal who is in a committed relationship with an upstanding man who wants to become a teacher.
If a novel could win an award for best cinematography, this would take home the gold. Amor Towlesâ€™s sophisticated retro-era novel of manners captures Manhattan 1938 with immaculate lucidity and a silvery focus on the gin and the jazz, the nightclubs and the streets, the pursuit of sensuality, and the arc of the self-made woman.
Over 12 years ago, John Burnham Schwartz introduced us to two ordinary families facing an extraordinary crisis â€“ the inadvertent death of a young boy, Josh Lerner, by a hit-and-run driver, a small-town lawyer named Dwight Arno. The book was RESERVATION ROAD, a wrenching psychological study about how a single moment in time can shatter an orderly world into tiny little shards. Now, in a poignantly written sequel, Mr. Schwartz revisits the two families â€“ the Arnos and the Lerners â€“ years later, at the cusp of yet another crisis.