ORFEO by Richard Powers

The protagonist of ORFEO, Peter Els, listens at age thirteen to a recording of Mozart’s Jupiter symphony and is transported. This novel continues the author’s literary exploration of cutting edge science and its impact on its practitioners. Peter Els becomes a composer of serious music, very much of the current moment in the arts. He is a musical idealist, with a belief in the power of music to truly move the listener. As he matures, his work becomes ever more difficult and timely. As a young man he was a prodigy in music with talent in science as well. The creative juices of both flow in his veins. In college he starts out in chemistry, but becomes enmeshed in music through the musical connection with his first love, Clara. In graduate school at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, his work becomes ever more difficult and “modern,” in part through his collaborations with Maddy, who becomes his lover and later his wife for a while, and with Richard Bonner, an experimental theater director who he meets while in graduate school. Richard pushes him to become ever more radical.

March 20, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , ,  · Posted in: Literary, Reading Guide, Scifi, US Midwest

ARCHANGEL by Andrea Barrett

Phoebe Cornelius, the protagonist of “The Ether of Space,” the second of the five long stories in this collection, makes a living explaining scientific concepts to laymen. This is Andrea Barrett’s forte also. Three of these stories are set in the wings of some great scientific discovery: Phoebe is trying to comprehend Einstein’s Relativity; her son Sam becomes a pioneer in the relatively new science of genetics; and an earlier story explores the impact of Darwinism on the younger generation of scientists in America. In all these cases, Barrett explains the underlying concepts with great clarity.

March 2, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: Scifi, Short Stories, y Award Winning Author

THE UNAMERICANS by Molly Antopol

A title such as THE UNAMERICANS begs this question: what is an American? Or more specifically, what is an American in Molly Antopol’s world? A traditional answer might be to have a personal sense of identity and to be unencumbered to pursue one’s most shining hopes and dreams in a land where anything is possible.

Molly Antopol’s characters are mostly Jewish and they are mostly alienated – from spouse or kids, from past ideology and beliefs, and often, from their most authentic selves. Each story is a little gem onto itself.

February 26, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: 5 under 35, Short Stories, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

A GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED by Dara Horn

The idea for writing a modern version of the biblical story of Joseph came apparently from the author’s husband. It is a brilliant one, even more brilliantly executed. First, because she uses it for resonance rather than prediction; you recognize the biblical parallels after they have occurred, but you never know when she is going to depart from the Genesis version, so her novel remains surprising to the end. Second, because the Egyptian setting grounds the book in aspects of Jewish history that are perhaps less well-known, but obviously relevant to the eternal geopolitical situation in the Middle East. And third, because the Torah reference provides the perfect opening to explore many issues in Jewish teaching and philosophy, most notably those concerning divine providence, accident, and free will. The title of her novel, actually, is borrowed from a treatise on these very questions written in Cairo by the twelfth century doctor and philosopher Maimonides. The result, in Horn’s hands, is a richly layered novel that is humane, exciting, informative, and thought-provoking, all at the same time.

February 18, 2014 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , ,  · Posted in: Facing History, Family Matters, Literary, Middle East, Speculative (Beyond Reality), Theme driven, World Lit, y Award Winning Author

BIRDS OF PARADISE by Diana Abu-Jaber

BIRDS OF PARADISE by Diana Abu-Jaber is a richly layered and beautifully written novel. It is akin to an archeological dig – each layer uncovering unexpected treasures. The book begins five years before Hurricane Katrina hit and ends during its aftermath.

September 15, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: 2011 Favorites, Contemporary, Family Matters, Florida, y Award Winning Author

ALL IS FORGOTTEN, NOTHING IS LOST by Lan Samantha Chang

This is a beautiful book. If you want to read something that has the same effect as gazing at a vast and perfect ink-wash painting, calming and yet utterly absorbing, reach for this. Like the tiniest haze of seeping ink will be skillful enough to convey a distant village nestling in the hills, or the flight of a crane; there is not a word misplaced in this small and lovely work. Its theme is poetry, and indeed the exquisite style does full justice to the subject.

September 12, 2011 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , , , , , , ,  · Posted in: Contemporary, Literary