David Vann’s LEGEND OF A SUICIDE consists of a novella and short stories that are semi-autobiographical. Vann spent his early years in Ketchikan, Alaska where his father had a dental practice. His father sold the practice and bought a fishing boat that he hoped would provide a living. His father invested unwisely and lost a lot of money. On top of that, the IRS was after him for some investments he made in other countries. Vann’s parents divorced when Vann was about five years old because his father was unfaithful. Vann was witness to some horrific fights between his parents. His father was mercurial of mood, likely with manic-depression that appears to have been undiagnosed. After his parent’s divorce, Vann moved to California with his mother and sister. When Vann was thirteen years old, his father asked him to spend a year in Alaska with him. Vann declined. Two weeks later, his father shot himself. This book is Vann’s attempt to get his head around his father’s suicide, along with his own feelings of guilt, shame, anger, denial and fears.

August 15, 2010 · Judi Clark · One Comment
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Short Stories, US Northwest


Jack Lang is not great at being in the world. At the start of this quirky and original book, he has impulsively purchased a second ranch house – right across the street from his original house – at an auction. His wife Beth, a teacher at a local college, his just left him for his good friend Terry Canavan. Terry’s long-time girlfriend, Rena, may or may not be coming on to him.

To really complicate things, he is left in charge of his autistic savant son Hendrick, who has a penchant for memorizing the Weather Channel and mimicking advertising (in its entirety) and sloganeering verbatim.

And that’s just the start of things.

July 11, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Debut Novel, Humorous, Reading Guide, US South

HURRY DOWN SUNSHINE by Michael Greenberg

Michael Greenberg’s brilliant and mesmerizing memoir, HURRY DOWN SUNSHINRE, of his daughter’s madness is a poignant and terrifying book about the depths and peaks of mania and the desperate struggle that a loved one will go to in order to bring someone back from the world of psychosis.

When Greenberg’s daughter, Sally, first becomes psychotic, he thinks it is more her creativity than anything else. He is slow to recognize her manic state. But then, who would first assume that someone they love has gone to a place of madness. “But how does one tell the difference between Plato’s “divine madness” and gibberish? Between enthousiasmos (literally, to be inspired by a god) and lunacy? Between the prophet and the “medically mad.”

February 17, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Non-fiction, Reading Guide

A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY by Lauren Grodstein

Just like her earlier debut novel REPRODUCTION IS THE FLAW OF LOVE, Lauren Grodstein’s new book, too, is written from the point of view of a morose male protagonist. The hero in A FRIEND OF THE FAMILY is Peter Dizinoff, a doctor living in a very comfortable New Jersey suburb. In the beginning of the novel we find Dizinoff unhappy and separated from his family, but we are not told why. Flipping between flashbacks, we learn that his son Alec, on whom all of his fatherly expectations are laden, has disappointed his father by dropping out of a promising school.

February 5, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Contemporary, Family Matters, US Mid-Atlantic

RANSOM by David Malouf

The background of RANSOM’s slipcover is velvety black, the Japanese kuro, “perfect black,” that, by definition, engulfs not just all frequencies of light, but also the senses. It almost mesmerizes and gives a feeling of sinking into endless depth. Silhouetted against this backdrop is an image that from afar isn’t easily identified, but up close resolves as a donkey or a mule. Why aren’t there two men depicted instead? Why this animal? Only by reading does it become clear why its shaded presence is considered so indispensable that it graces the cover.

January 23, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Facing History, World Lit, y Award Winning Author


In THE FINANCIAL LIVES OF THE POETS, author Jess Walter has created an everyman character with a twist. Forty-six year old newspaper reporter Matt Prior has been laid off from his job. With his severance package running out, panic has set in. Questionable monetary choices, including most notably, Matt’s unsuccessful launch of the website poetfolio.com, which was to give financial advice in verse, but instead ate up their savings before it launched, and his wife Lisa’s brief e-Bay buying spree and a bit of financial juggling with their mortgage, have left the Priors in a home worth less then what they owe on it; a very topical situation.

December 30, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: 2009 Favorites, Contemporary, Drift-of-Life, Humorous, Literary, Satire, United States, y Award Winning Author