Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

A tale of two gunmen in the old American West told in a narrative voice that more resembles that of a Protestant religious reformer than your typical shoot-em-up cowboy. Odd, unusual transitions, and an undramatic style: started out reading it very coldly, ready to bail, but have grown to like it for its oddness.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Pascali's Island by Barry Unsworth

Corruption, paranoia in a crumbling corner of the Ottoman Empire.

My room, scene of my labors over the years, scene of triumphs of a higher order than that of mere physical superbia, yet seemed cramped and mean to me, the hold at the end of my burrowing life. I looked at my miserable paraphernalia of pleasure, books, hookah, coffee cup and bowl; at my shabby clothes and unkempt person, still sour from sleep. A kind of rebellious misery rose in me. Why should I sit here, hatching other people's motives and purposes?

Friday, March 09, 2012

"How Annandale Went Out " by E. A. Robinson

"They called it Annandale--and I was there
To flourish, to find words, and to attend:
Liar, physician, hypocrite, and friend,
I watched him; and the sight was not so fair
As one or two that I have seen elsewhere:
An apparatus not for me to mend--
A wreck, with hell between him and the end,
Remained of Annandale; and I was there.

"I knew the ruin as I knew the man;
So put the two together, if you can,
Remembering the worst you know of me.
Now view yourself as I was, on the spot--
With a slight kind of engine. Do you see?
Like this. . . You wouldn't hang me? I thought not."

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Cut by George Pelecanos

Home-town hero George Pelecanos adds another impeccable crime novel to his collection. More DC than just about anybody, Pelecanos writes about DC neighborhodd with granular, unmistakable precision, particularly N.E. and the Petworth/Georgia Avenue corridor. By rendering such a relatively limited scope to his novel's setting, he works a handful of well-drawn characters deeply into the landscape: they have always been there, and they always will remain, they were almost all born there, and die there (we see more than a couple do so in front of our eyes).

His hero, Lucas Spero, the adopted son of a Greek-American couple, has returned from active duty in Iraq and now works as a "finder" for a local attorney: he finds people, he finds money, he finds stuff. He also finds "the right way": guided by his beloved, deceased father's ghost, Spero struggles to keep promises, punish bad guys, and assist the less fortunate. Pelecanos' sense of moral ourage is a wonder to examine.

Maybe Speros goes down a little too easy with the ladies, maybe the lady characters exist to be attracted to him and flirt with him. But that's a small bother.

(His musical references are also stellar: Drive By Truckers, Black Uhuru, The Hold Steady, just to name a few.)

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