There are a handful of writers who haunt me. That is, as Iâ€™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 youâ€™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 wonâ€™t let go, even in a dream state. She is that mesmerizingly good.
Cynthia Ozick, author of THE SHAWL and TRUST, two of my favorite books, has written a gem of a novel in FOREIGN BODIES. A slithering and taut comedy of errors, this book examines issues of betrayal and trust, literal and emotional exile, regret and rage, Judaism in post-World War II Europe and the meaning of art in one’s life. While based on themes similar to Henry James’ THE AMBASSADORS, this novel is distinctly and uniquely Ozick’s.
Andrew Winer has written a potboiler that is also literary. Writing about such a serious subject as the Holocaust sometimes constricts a novelist into a more conventional form of storytelling/historical fiction. But as we have seen with such books as Frederick Reikenâ€™s DAY FOR NIGHT and Nicole Kraussâ€™s more postmodern GREAT HOUSE, as well as Death as a narrator in Markus Zusakâ€™s THE BOOK THIEF, the only unwritten rules are to grip the reader in a credible story and to edify through words. Winer has done both, and he puts his unique stamp on it with his fluid, page-turning, thriller style blended with his out-of-the-box imagination and mellifluous prose. Like Plath did so craftily with THE BELL JAR, Winer will reach a wider audience by his hewing of the elevated with the pedestrian. Saul Bellow meets Stephen King. I applaud his ambitious style, which he succeeded with on many levels. Two stories parallel and merge, reaching forward in one, backward in the other, fusing in a transmigration of redemption.
As Daniel Silva’s THE REMBRANDT AFFAIR opens, Gabriel Allon, expert art restorer and former Israeli intelligence agent, is enjoying a well-earned vacation in Cornwall, England, with his beautiful wife, Chiara. Alas, he will be soon be dragged out of retirement because of a missing painting, a series of outrageous thefts dating back to World War II, and an international financier with a great deal to hide. The work of art is a striking portrait of Rembrandt’s mistress, which was once owned by a Dutch Jew. It subsequently passed through a number of hands until it suddenly resurfaced and was put up for sale
Sometimes one is privileged to read a book that is so brilliant we hope it never ends. Such is the case with HOW TO PAINT A DEAD MAN by Sarah Hall. This is Ms. Hallâ€™s fourth book. Her second book, THE ELECTRIC MICHELANGELO, was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize.