Monday, September 25, 2023

Harrow by Joy Williams

 Another grim one from Joy. Unusual style, almost plotless, everything happens in the omniscient narrator's voice, and in dialogue.  An orphaned young woman ends up at an elderly retreat on the shore of a dead lake in the west someplace, as the old people plot vengeance against against a world of corporate greed and ecological neglect. Obscure. But William's prose is knotty and powerful.

Slammerkin by Emma Donogue


Really enjoyed this novel of a poor girl growing up in London in the mid 1700s, who is thrown out of her family (by her mother - "You have no mother now) and takes up prostitution to save her own life. Then she abandons that life, and heads to the tiny farming village where her mother was born, and tries to make a living as an assistant to a dress-maker. In true "naturalistic" style, though, things don't go well for a woman with nothin and no connections. Vivid writing and a very modern idiom makes this story feel contemporary.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

McGlue by Ottessa Moshfegh


I like this strange and violent book. I had disliked her MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION though I can't really remember why. But this was different.  Reminded me somewhat of THE NORTH WATER.

Lone Women by Victor Lavalle


Unusual new novel from Lavalle, whose work I've enjoyed before. Was perplexed but glad I stuck with it in the end: he somehow make a creepy supernatural thriller (with a dragon!) out of American frontier history, particularly the "lone women" land grants in Montana in the early 1900s. He takes on racism and  sexism at the same time. There's nobody else quite like him.

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ni Ghriofa


Very strange novel or memoir or prose poem or all three, about a poet in modern Ireland searching for clues about a poetess from 17th Century Ireland whom history has all but erased. I enjoyed the first half of the book more than the second. First half was more of the narrator/poet's struggle with motherhood and breastfeeding and post-partum isolation and mental struggles, while second half gets more into an imagined history of old Ireland.

This Time Tomorrow by Emma Straub


Liked this a lot, but I'm a sucker for time-travel books that manipulate my emotions. See Time Traveler's Wife, etc. Even the upper West Side of Manhattan milieu -- usually one of my bugbears because of its usual cliched cast of privileged white people -- comes across well. At least it refers to NYC in the 1980s!

Tuesday, September 05, 2023

The Seven Good Years by Edgar Keret


Cute but reductive. The real life Keret is much less funny and sharp and enraged than his fictional ego.

Only The Sinners Bleed by S. A. Cosby


Another solid story from Cosby. Race war simmering in a small town in southern Virginia, brought to a boil by discovery of a serial child-killer and torturer operating under religious delusions. Cosby's prose can get a little cliched, melodramatic, and predictable - and some of his character set pieces (dead mother, troubled brother, wise father, old girlfriend) are seemingly written by rote) - but he keeps his weather eye on the action and it never lets up.

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