DISASTER WAS MY GOD by Bruce Duffy

I was in my late thirties when the poet Arthur Rimbaud first crossed my horizon. It was Jim Harrison, the American writer, who brought him to my attention. In his memoir OFF TO THE SIDE, Harrison writes, “I think that I was nineteen when Rimbaud’s ‘Everything we are taught is false’ became my modus operandi.” Harrison continues, “…Rimbaud’s defiance of society was vaguely criminal and at nineteen you try to determine what you are by what you are against.” I admire Harrison a great deal. If he liked Rimbaud, if Rimbaud was the man, then I needed to know more.

October 13, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Africa, Facing History, France

EVERYTHING WAS GOODBYE by Gurjinder Basran

In her debut novel, EVERYTHING WAS GOODBYE, Gurjinder Basran tells the story of one happy-unhappy family, seen through the eyes of Meena, the youngest of six sisters. Set against the backdrop of suburban British Columbia, Basran paints a richly coloured portrait of a close-knit Punjabi community, caught between the traditions of “home” in India and their Canadian home, where their community is surrounded by a predominantly white, rather laid-back English-speaking society. With an impressively confident approach to a complex subject matter and a lively and engaging writing style, the young Indian-Canadian author explores the emotional turmoil, faced by a girl/young woman like Meena, experiencing the two cultures intimately. Traditional family values are assessed against the young heroine’s need for independence and emotional fulfillment.

October 3, 2011 · Judi Clark · Comments Closed
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Canada, Class - Race - Gender, Debut Novel, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

THE EVOLUTION OF BRUNO LITTLEMORE by Benjamin Hale

Consider the big questions. For instance, what does language afford us? Is self-consciousness and all it implies (self-reflection, guilt, joy…) embedded in language, daresay a function of language? Why do we create art? Nature or nurture, what shapes us? How is love possible? Where does rage come from? Cruelty? What are we to make of the animals, those we imprison, those we consume, the beasts we love as companions? What, indeed, does it mean to be a human being and can it, whatever it might mean, be fully realized? Now, take these questions and a bunch more just like them, and wrap them up in a narrative so unique and compelling, so rich as to bring transparency to the questions. Then shape the story around a unique voice that ranges from the mindlessly inarticulate to the Mensian complex. If you can imagine experiencing all that, you have a sense of what this book affords the adventurous reader.

June 26, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Character Driven, Coming-of-Age, Contemporary, Debut Novel, Literary

THE TRAGEDY OF ARTHUR by Arthur Phillips

The very first thing I did after finishing The Tragedy of Author – Arthur Phillips’s ingenious faux-memoir – was to Google to see what was true and what wasn’t…only to find that much of Phillips’s traceable past has been erased.

Did he really have a gay twin sister named Dana, a scam artist father who spent his adult life in prison, a Czech wife and twin sons of his own? Methinks not. What I do know is that Arthur Phillips shares his birthday with the Bard himself, that he was born in Minnesota, and that he is indeed a writer to be watched very carefully. Because what he’s accomplished in this novel – er, memoir – is sheer genius.

June 24, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Alternate History, Contemporary

DOC by MARY DORIA RUSSELL

DOC relates how it might have been during 1878-79 when Dr. John Henry Holliday lived in Dodge City, Kansas. “The Deadly Dentist” who later gained fame or infamy, depending on perspective, for “pistoleering” along with the surviving Earp brothers at the O.K. Corral, saved Wyatt Earp’s life in Dodge first. Earp is said to have credited Holliday with saving him, but apparently didn’t share details, so history isn’t sure of the facts. But this novel presents its own story of how it might have happened.

May 24, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, US Frontier West, Wild West

CARIBOU ISLAND by David Vann

This is a richly absorbing and dark, domestic drama that combines the natural, icy world of the Alaska frontier with a story of deceptive love and betrayal. If Steinbeck and Hemingway married the best of Anita Shreve, you would get David Vann’s CARIBOU ISLAND. His prose is terse and the characterizations are subtle, but knifing. Like Shreve, his characters are saturated with loneliness and disconnection with their lives, with each other, in a pit of misperception, despair and exile, in a conflict of selves that beat each other down. The topography and remoteness of this “exclave” state, a place non-contiguous physically with its legal attachment (of the US) serves as one of many metaphors to the attachments exemplified in this story.

January 18, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Alaska, Character Driven, Contemporary, Family Matters, Reading Guide, Wild West