THE COLOR OF NIGHT by Madison Smartt Bell

I have chosen this rather longer quotation to show how Madison Smartt Bell can turn on a dime between a realistic description of a California druggie cult in the late sixties to an evocation of the revels of Dionysian maenads from the earliest age of Greek mythology. The link here is an acid trip, but Bell does not need chemicals to effect his alchemy. In 2001, when the book opens, the narrator Mae is a middle-aged croupier in a Las Vegas area casino. Bell’s description is realistic and immediate: “Only the whirl of lights and the electronic burbling of machines, rattle of dice in the craps table cups, and almost inaudible whisper of cards, the friction-free hum of roulette wheels turning.” But two sentences later, he has already made the shift: “It was a sort of fifth-rate hell, and I a minor demon posted to it. A succubus too indifferent to suck.”

April 6, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, California, Contemporary, New York City, US Southwest, y Award Winning Author

THE UNCOUPLING by Meg Wolitzer

Once upon a time…no. On a dark and stormy night…wait–there was no storm. Long ago and far away…but, it was only a few years ago, and not far if you live in suburban New Jersey. So, one dark and December night in the safe and tidy suburb of Stellar Plains, New Jersey, an arctic chill seeped under doors, a frigid blast blew through windows, and a glacial nipping swirled between the sheets of spouses and lovers. And, just as suddenly, the woman turned from their men, and stopped having sex.

April 5, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Family Matters, Humorous, Reading Guide

THREE STAGES OF AMAZEMENT by Carol Edgarian

THREE STAGES OF AMAZEMENT by Carol Edgarian is the story of a marriage. The novel takes place in the not far distant past, when Obama has recently been elected president and the markets have plummeted. Lena and Charlie have started their lives anew. Charlie was the head of surgery at Mass General Hospital. He has left this behind to move to San Francisco to start up a new company that specializes in medical robotics although this is not the best time to look for venture capitalists to fund his research.

March 23, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: California, Character Driven, Contemporary

NUDE WALKER by Bathsheba Monk

THE NUDE WALKER in Bathsheba Monk’s entertaining read is Barbara Warren, a schizophrenic who tends to walk around downtown Warrenside in the buff when she’s off her meds. The Warrens were once the industrial scions in Warrenside, a fictional town in Pennsylvania. As the town, which used to be the center of the booming steel industry, gradually went into decline, so too rusted the fortunes of the Warrens. These days, Barbara isolates herself in the past, clinging on to memories of the glory days and worrying (because nobody else will, she says) that by 2012, European Americans would be the minority in town.

March 18, 2011 · Judi Clark · Comments Closed
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Class - Race - Gender, Contemporary, Debut Novel, Reading Guide, US Mid-Atlantic

INCENDIARY by Chris Cleave

Imagine that you’re a working class Cockney mother with a husband who detonates bombs and a young son who is four years and three months old. You stave off your anxieties about the uncertainty of your life through mindless sex encounters. Eventually, you meet a neighbor – a journalist named Jasper – and, while your husband and son are at a soccer game, you invite him to your flat. At the exact same time you are in the throes of sexual abandon, there’s a massive terrorist bomb attack at the London soccer stadium, vaporizing over one thousand people – your husband and son among them. How do you go on? How do you live with the remorse?

March 12, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Literary, Unique Narrative, United Kingdom

THE TERRIBLE PRIVACY OF MAXWELL SIM by Jonathan Coe

A couple of weeks ago, I watched the film “The Social Network.” I expect most of us know what the film is about, but for those who don’t, it’s the fictionalized account of the creation of the social networking internet site: Facebook. I liked the film a lot, and one of the things that remained with me after the credits rolled is the changing idea of friendship. In the age of the internet, what does friendship mean? It used to be that we made friends in school, at work or at university, but now many of us have friendships with people online that we’ve never actually met in person. Are these relationships real? Are they substitutes, or are they a facsimile of the “real” thing.

The authenticity of relationships is just one of the many things that trouble the protagonist of Jonathan Coe’s latest novel, THE TERRIBLE PRIVACY OF MAXWELL SIM.

March 11, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Contemporary, Drift-of-Life, Humorous, Reading Guide, United Kingdom