Archive for March, 2014

LOVE AND TREASURE by Ayelet Waldman

Ayelet Waldman’s new book begins in Red Hook, Maine, the setting of her novel RED HOOK ROAD, but the two could hardly be more different. For whereas she had previously confined herself to two families in the same setting over a period of a very few years, she travels in this one to Salzburg, Budapest, and Israel, at various periods over a hundred-year span. By the same token, though, it is a stretch to call Love and Treasure a novel; it is essentially a trilogy of novellas, each with different characters, but linked by a single object and common themes. The object is an enameled Jugendstil pendant in the shape of a peacock. Although only of modest value, it plays an important role in the lives of the people who people who possess it, and provides a focus for the novelist’s enquiry into the lives of Hungarian Jews both before and after the Holocaust.

March 31, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Eastern Europe, Israel, NE & New York, World Lit

THE BLAZING WORLD by Siri Hustvedt

Harriet “Harry” Burden was an obscurely known artist for much of her life, and also a wife, mother, and scholar. She was criticized for her small architectural works that consisted of too much busyness–cluttered with figures and text that didn’t fit into any schema. Her husband, Felix Lord, was an influential, successful art collector, but who couldn’t help his wife for alleged fear of nepotism. After Felix died, Harriet came back with a vengeance, and under three male artist’s pseudonyms (artists that she sought out), she created a combination art (part performance, if you consider the pseudonyms as part of the process) a trilogy which was successful, and even more lauded posthumously. They were shown individually under the names of “The History of Western Art, ” “The Suffocation Rooms,” and “Beneath.” Later, when unmasked (so to speak), they were identified as Maskings. I am reluctant to reduce and categorize Harriet–although labels such as “feminist” may apply.

March 30, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Character Driven, Contemporary, Literary

THE INTERESTINGS by Meg Wolitzer

The greatest gift that any writer can give her readers is providing them with a fictional world they can immerse – and ultimately lose – themselves in.

That’s precisely what Meg Wolitzer achieves in THE INTERESTINGS, surely the most fully-realized and satisfying book of her career.

This panoramic saga focuses on a group of Baby Boomers from the time they meet at a camp for the creatively gifted as teenagers through middle age. The bond that draws these divergent characters together is powerful and special; they dub themselves “The Interestings.” And the bond, for the most part, is stretched, sustained, and redefined as they age.

March 24, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: 2013 Favorites, Coming-of-Age, Contemporary, New York City, Reading Guide

KABU KABU by Nnedi Okorafor

Nnedi Okorafor’s story collection KABU KABU, published in 2013, provides the reader with a fascinating glimpse into the author’s rich imagination, vibrant language and captivating scenarios. Created at different stages in her extensive writing career, Okorafor treats us to a range of intriguing characters and their adventures, skilfully (and successfully) combining elements of speculative fiction and fantasy with African folklore and magical realism, and yes, indeed, political and social present day issues. Many of her stories have been nominated, shortlisted and/or have won literary recognition and awards as have her novels.

March 23, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Africa, Scifi, Short Stories, Speculative (Beyond Reality)

THE CUTTING SEASON by Attica Locke

The past and the present are inextricably bound, and history is examined, re-examined, and refined within the context of a changing world of ideas, new evidence, and reform. Attica Locke demonstrated this in her first crime book, Black Water Rising, (nominated for an Orange Prize in 2009). Once again, she braids controversial social and historical issues with an intense and multi-stranded mystery.

Locke artfully informs Cutting Season with the dark corners of our nation’s past and the ongoing prejudices and failures to live up to the enlightened ideals of equality and justice. Her fiction tells the truth through an imaginative storyline, and she enfolds these issues and more in this lush historical novel of murder, racism, and family. The title of the book refers to the season of sugarcane cutting.

March 22, 2014 · Judi Clark · Comments Closed
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, Mystery/Suspense, Reading Guide, US South, y Award Winning Author

KINDER THAN SOLITUDE by Yiyun Li

“Perhaps there is a line in everyone’s life that, once crossed, imparts a certain truth that one has not been able to see before, transforming solitude from a choice into the only possible line of existence.” For four friends, that line was crossed during their late teenage years, when one of them was poisoned, perhaps deliberately, perhaps accidentally, lingering in a physical limbo state until she finally dies years later. The young man, Boyang, remains in China; the two young women, Ruyu and Moran, move to the United States. Each ends up living in what the author describes as a “life-long quarantine against love and life.”

March 21, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: California, Character Driven, China, Contemporary, Literary, US Midwest, World Lit