Monday, January 19, 2009

Reading is sexy XV

Batut (image: Léopold Batut (1856-1902) Jeune femme au livre. via Guada chi legge)

1. The Radiant City Lauren B. Davis. This is an amazing, though sporadically gut-wretching book. A Canadian journalist, Matthew Bowles, a world-weary war correspondant, recuperates in Paris, after being shot in Gaza. He does not like being the news. This is a man with PTSD, though his depression, of course, has much deeper routes. He re-connects with a war photographer and sometime mercenary Jack, and his friend former NYC cop Anthony (whose career ended when he was hit with a table). Slowly, he is adopted by the Lebanese family who run the cafe across the street from his apartment; mother Saida, shy about her acid-burned neck, frustrated teenage son Joseph, Saida's brother who dreams of a life where he will be more than an outsider, a refugee, and their father. This is a novel of outsiders, and of bridging the gap. The characters seem full and real. Paris itself is a character- and is alive. This book is a real accomplishment- it left me shaken, though there is hope. I am particularly impressed by how she made this rather macho, male-dominated world of war correspondents real- she gets in their skin. Read it.

2. The Disheveled Dictionary Karen Elizabeth Gordon. Apparently, I now read dictionaries. This was fun. Her irreverent and rococco definitions are something else.
coruscation a gleam, glint, sparkle, glitter. Before getting the sack for making a crack about "Molotovian cocktail hours," the captain's recreation and refection officer vouchsafed to the refugees from Bosoxia shipboard romance against nacreous nightscapes, which included pelagic acrobats amidst phosphorescent coruscations glancing off the surface of the sea."

3. Playing Sardines Michèle Roberts. This is a book of short stories. They are clever, but hard to summarize. They are mainly about women, looking for things in the wrong place. And food. Fairy tales and families, Mary and occasionally, obsessions. An enjoyable read.

4. Of Love and Other Demons Gabriel García Márquez. This is a beautiful short work of fiction. I would have read it for the image of the snowing paper cranes on orange trees alone. It tells the story of an eighteenth century young 12 year old girl, Sierva María, the neglected daughter of the less-than-sharp Marquis and his manipulative wife (whose let herself go to her cacao, honey - not to mention adulterous sex - addictions), abandoned to be raised amongst their slaves, who one day is bit by a rabid dog. Five months later superstition wins and her life is ravaged by her "treatment" and her response to the alleged evidence of rabies. The "medicine" is so primitive and painful her response is viewed as evidence of rabies. Ultimately, she is entrusted by her father to a convent, when the Church decides that rabies (which she does not have) is in fact a mere smoke screen for the demon possessing her. Having been raised by the slaves, and being fluent in African languages and religions, her behavious is taken as evidence against her. The Bishop assigns Father Cayetano Delura, to her case. Surprisingly, this is a love story, a story of superstition, human stupidity, ignorance, books, beauty and tragedy.

5. A House Called Brazil Audrey Schulman. This one was usual. Our narrator, remembers the period of her life 20 years previous, in 1970 at age 19, when her called her daily from an unknown location, to tell her all the tales of her ancestors. Her mother left her when she was 14 and she had been living on the family farm in rural Ontario by herself since then- going to boarding school, forging her mother's signature as needed, generally carrying on. The way she copes with this abandonment is touching. The stories of her ancestors are staggering; there are saints and murderers, lovers and thieves, cigar-smoking grandmother entrepreneurs, and hundreds of them living in a house called Brazil in Ft. Lauderdale. This is quite the read- I recommend it.

6. The Pharmacist's Mate by Amy Fusselman - I bought this book because of the rave review by Zadie Smith and the cover by Marcel Dzama. So far, so good...

Who mixes Mr. Brown with Panic in Detroit...

Thinking of books, Gorey-lovers should go here.

1 comment:

Lauren B. Davis said...

I'm delighted to hear you enjoyed "The Radiant City," and I thank you for posting about it. We writers rarely hear from readers and it's always a pleasure to learn our work has reached an appreciative reader -- makes toiling away on the next book much easier!

All the best, Lauren