JUST KIDS by Patti Smith

There are a handful of writers who haunt me. That is, as I’m reading their books they come to me in my dreams, usually with sharp elbows and voices clamoring for attention. Cormac McCarthy effects me this way. So does, not surprisingly perhaps, Friedrich Nietzsche. No writers whisper to me in my dreams. It was the second night of reading Just Kids that I discovered here too a voice so strong and compelling so as to ring in my ears after the book is closed, the eyes shut and the brain turned off. Like caffeine, if consumed after a certain late hour, you know you’re in for a ride. Patti Smith is an original. She is a poet with the heart of a rock star and the drive of an Olympic athlete. She comes at you hard and fast and won’t let go, even in a dream state. She is that mesmerizingly good.

January 3, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Coming-of-Age, National Book Award Winner, New York City, Non-fiction, y Award Winning Author

LORD OF MISRULE by Jaimy Gordon

Most of us, when we think of horse racing, conjure up a mint-juleps-and-roses vision of the Kentucky Derby or perhaps, Churchill Downs, attended by jewel-studded rich folk dressed up in their finery with cash to burn.

But at the rock-bottom end of the sport, horse racing is a whole other world – a world inhabited by down-on-their-luck trainers and jockeys, loan sharks and crooks, gyps and hotwalkers. This is the world Jaimy Gordon takes on – Indian Mound Downs, where the horses are mostly aging, drugged, or lame and the trainers are as crooked and cynical as they come.

December 2, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Contemporary, Literary, National Book Award Winner, US South, y Award Winning Author

FIRST OF STATE by Robert Greer

In FIRST OF STATE, Robert Greer goes back in time to the early career of his main character, C.J. Floyd. The series started in the 1990s, but this book begins in the fall of 1971 when 20 year old Calvin Jefferson Floyd returns to Denver, Colorado to live with his bail bondsman uncle Ike Floyd, after serving two years in the Navy in Viet Nam. This very enjoyable book not only provides details about how Floyd became a successful bail bondsman and part-time private investigator, but also provides a great mix of characters and mystery as Floyd searches for several years to find the murder of pawnshop worker and collector Wiley Ames.

October 24, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Sleuths Series, US Frontier West

THE MUSEUM OF INNOCENCE by Orhan Pamuk

I don’t know why I resisted Orhan Pamuk all of these years, but one thing’s for sure – I now can’t live without him. I remember the critical acclaim that followed Pamuk in 2005 after the release of Snow, but even with a Nobel Prize under his belt, I was hardly swayed. That may have had something to do with my obsessive relationship with Philip Roth during that time – after all, I’m a loyal gal. And this Pamuk guy was not going to take me away from the legendary Zuckermans and Kepeshes of modern Jewish fiction.

This was all before a few months ago when I stumbled across a review of Pamuk’s literary masterpiece, The Museum of Innocence. The premise of the novel immediately had me fixated: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy spends the next eight years of his life…sitting in a living room with girl, her husband, and her parents, watching Turkish serials and the evening news, night after night. Now that’s what hooked me: the utter devotion and sacrifice that boy made just to see his beloved, day after day, for eight torturous years, with hardly any affirmation from his object of affection.

October 7, 2010 · Judi Clark · One Comment
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Literary, Middle East, Nobel Prize for Literature, Reading Guide, Translated, Turkey, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

FATHER OF THE RAIN by Lily King

Years ago, I sent out a birthday invitation with the theme, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” Funny – or so I thought.

But for Daley Amory, the main character of Lily King’s poignant and at times heartbreaking FATHER OF THE RAIN, those words are anything but funny. We meet her as an 11-year-old, torn between the liberal and do-good world of her mother and the conservative, erratic, liquor-soaked world of her charismatic and arrogant father. A WASP of the first-degree – rich, Harvard-educated, disconnected – his signature phrase, while lying on his chaise chair, drink in one hand, cigarette in the other, is, “I wonder what the poor people are doing today.”

July 30, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Character Driven, Contemporary, Family Matters, Literary, NE & New York, Reading Guide, y Award Winning Author

ANTHROPOLOGY OF AN AMERICAN GIRL by Hilary Thayer Hamann

The “American girl” in the title of this novel refers to Eveline Auerbach, who, when the book opens, is a junior in high school. The novel is set in the late 70’s in East Hampton, New York.

Evie (as she is often referred to) suffers two big blows right off the bat. A strong maternal figure in her life, Maman, dies from cancer. Incidentally Maman’s daughter, Kate is a close friend of Evie’s. Second, Evie is raped by two high school classmates (for those squeamish about this, there is no graphic description here).

June 14, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Coming-of-Age, Contemporary, Debut Novel, NE & New York, Reading Guide