ORFEO by Richard Powers

The protagonist of ORFEO, Peter Els, listens at age thirteen to a recording of Mozart’s Jupiter symphony and is transported. This novel continues the author’s literary exploration of cutting edge science and its impact on its practitioners. Peter Els becomes a composer of serious music, very much of the current moment in the arts. He is a musical idealist, with a belief in the power of music to truly move the listener. As he matures, his work becomes ever more difficult and timely. As a young man he was a prodigy in music with talent in science as well. The creative juices of both flow in his veins. In college he starts out in chemistry, but becomes enmeshed in music through the musical connection with his first love, Clara. In graduate school at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, his work becomes ever more difficult and “modern,” in part through his collaborations with Maddy, who becomes his lover and later his wife for a while, and with Richard Bonner, an experimental theater director who he meets while in graduate school. Richard pushes him to become ever more radical.

March 20, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Literary, Reading Guide, Scifi, US Midwest

BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK by Ben Fountain

Billy Lynn – the eponymous hero of this book – is a genuine American hero. He and his fellow Bravo Squad members decimated an insurgency – caught on film by an embedded Fox News crew — and became overnight sensations in a nation starved for good news about Iraq. They are brought home for a media-intensive “Victory Tour” – in cities that happen to lie in an electoral swing state — to reinvigorate support for the war. We meet them at the end of that tour, on a rainy Thanksgiving, hosted by America’s Team, The Dallas Cowboys.

February 27, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Drift-of-Life, Humorous, National Book Award Finalist, National Book Critic Circle (NBCC), Texas, Unique Narrative, United States, y Award Winning Author

EUROPE IN SEPIA by Dubravka Ugresic

Dubravka Ugresic’s new collection of cultural essays deal, primarily, with “Nostalgia,” the title of her first piece.

Ms. Ugresice is a Croatian, formally a Yugoslavian, who now lives in Amsterdam.

Her essays delve into politics, history, popular US, Yugoslavian and European culture from the 1950′s to the 21st century, as well as her own thoughts and flights of fancy. She is branded a “Yugonostalgnic,” by many of her fellow countrymen and women. This is a derogatory term, a synonym for those who long for the days of the Yugoslavia of yore under the reign of Tito; dinosaurs who look back fondly to the slogan “brotherhood and unity.”

February 21, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Croatia, Europe, Non-fiction, Translated, World Lit, Yugoslavia

FALLEN LAND by Patrick Flanery

A perfect title for a stunning book. Its literal meaning is explained in the 1919 prologue, when a tree on which two men have been lynched falls deep into a sinkhole with the bodies still on it. The rest of the novel takes place in the present, or perhaps the not too distant future, when the land has been developed as an upscale subdivision for a rapidly growing city in the Midwest. But we are not quite there yet. In a second, slightly longer prologue, a woman goes to visit a convict on death row. It is a creepy, brilliant scene, although we know little of either of them, except that his name is Paul Krovik, and she regards him as a destroyer.

January 23, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2013 Favorites, Contemporary, Theme driven, US Midwest

THE VISIBLE MAN by Chuck Klosterman

It was more than one hundred years ago that H. G. Wells penned the science fiction classic, The Invisible Man, which subsequently paved new paths in the horror genre. The idea of a mad scientist who makes himself invisible and becomes mentally deranged as a result, is one that has taken root in popular culture ever since.

In his genre-bending new novel, Chuck Klosterman borrows the essential elements from Wells’ classic with some modifications. For one thing, he fixes the science. There has been some discussion that a truly invisible man would have been blind whereas Wells’ lead character, Griffin, clearly was not. So Klosterman’s protagonist, referred to simply as Y_, is not invisible — he is the visible man. But Y_ , much like Griffin, has an ability to make himself invisible to others.

October 6, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Scifi, Texas

REAMDE by Neal Stephenson

Neal Stephenson’s REAMDE, a play on words for the ReadMe file that accompanies many computer programs, is above all a wild adventure/detective story set in the present day. As one would expect from this author, current technology features prominently. The cast of characters is international, offering windows into such diverse types as Russian gangsters, Chinese hackers, American entrepreneurs, Idaho survivalists and second amendment fanatics among many others.

September 30, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Allegory/Fable, China, Scifi, Thriller/Spy/Caper, US Northwest, y Award Winning Author