In his new novel, THE CAT’S TABLE, Michael Ondaatje imagines a young boy’s three-week sea voyage across the oceans, from his home in Colombo, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) to England. The eleven-year-old travels alone and is, not surprisingly, allocated to the “lowly” Cat’s Table, where he joins an odd assortment of adults and two other boys of similar age.
When does the heartfelt convictions of one solitary man negate the jointly held consensus of the rest of any civic society?
That is the question posed at the center of Aravind Adigaâ€™s audacious new novel, an impressive and propulsive examination of the struggle for a slice of prime Mumbai real estate. It is a worthy follow-up to Adigaâ€™s Booker Prize novel, WHITE TIGER, as he goes back to the well to explore the changing face of a rapidly growing India.
Itâ€™s often said that a critic has no place christening contemporary works as literature; itâ€™s for future generations to decide which books will live on and which will fall the way of obscurity. According to this line of thinking, 19th- century Russians were just as incapable of heralding their literary giants as the ancient Greeks were of immortalizing Homer or the Elizabethans, Shakespeare. But thereâ€™s something in this argument Iâ€™ve always found hard to believe: great literature lives on not because itâ€™s incidentally suited to future tastes or historically informative; it lives on because it captures some of that elusive essence of what it is to be human, and while that universal quality all literature possesses is hard to pin down, to paraphrase Supreme Court justice, Potter Stewart: I know it when I see it. Tolstoyâ€™s contemporaries knew what they held in their hands with WAR AND PEACE just as I knew what I held in mine the first time I picked up a book by Jose Saramago. So let me be clear: Michel Houellebecq is such a writer and THE POSSIBILITY OF AN ISLAND is a book that will be read for generations to come.
Carolyn Cooke is a master of the short story formâ€”she won the O. Henry Award for her collection, THE BOSTONS. Cookeâ€™s debut novel, Daughters of the Revolution, is also set in New England in the late 60â€™s, in a town called Cape Wilde.
The epicenter of much of the action, even if might not seem so at first, is the Goode Schoolâ€”a prep school for boys. Principal Goddard Byrd, known simply as â€śGod,â€ť is absolutely against allowing co-education in his school. â€śOver my dead bodyâ€ť is his constant refrain when asked about it.
Harry Hole is a Norwegian detective especially trained in catching serial killers. He spent some time in Quantico learning these skills but serial killers are very rare in Norway. It just so happens that right now there is a serial killer loose in Norway. Heâ€™s been active for over fifteen years and his emblem is a snowman. Whenever he kills someone, he leaves a snowman in their yard. He has been nicknamed “The Snowmanâ€ť by the Nowegian police force and this has been picked up by the civilian population. Jo NesbĂ¸ has created an unremitting page-tuner in THE SNOWMAN.
Ann Packerâ€™s newest book, SWIM BACK TO ME, is comprised of a novella and five short stories. They are all â€śemotionally searing storiesâ€ť dealing with issues of intimacy, misunderstandings that cause distancing, betrayals, and the problems that people have with understanding and knowing one another. Each story is strong and brilliant.