I’ve never had a very long list of living authors I liked well enough to reliably read their books on publication. Even Haruki Murakami, faithful as I was to him since high school, has fallen by the wayside, an unread copy of 1Q84 on my shelf. These days, it seems, Tao Lin is [...]
In the June issue of Open Letters Monthly, I review Last Friends, the third of Jane Gardam’s Filth novels.
The Tournament of Books kicked off this week with a preliminary round featuring three books about the Iraq War. You’ve probably seen this list dozens of times by now so forgive me for noting once more, they are The Yellow Birds, by Kevin Powers, Fobbit, by David Abrams, and Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime [...]
I want to blog only in grand runs, posts daisy-chained together by a theme or place or time or whatever else, attacking one or a few books for a while so that out of a few hits I can land one or so and feel good about it. But if I keep waiting [...]
Rudyard Kipling’s short story “Baa Baa, Black Sheep” was published in 1888, and its origins are, sadly, autobiographical. It tells of young siblings Punch and Judy, who live a happy, near-carefree life in India with their young, loving parents—until it’s time to go Home.
First the idea of going Home must be introduced. [...]
Filth himself engages with history from a conservative, though self-effacing, perspective. “Lost. Over. Finished. Dead. Happened.” He may be bitter, at times, but he also recognizes he’s an old man now, that his time is past. But the Filth books are far from nostalgic for Empire, just as Filth himself is conflicted about [...]
The coelocanth that is Sir Edward Feathers does more than just look full and lovely on the page. The fact of his being a coelocanth gives him the ability to reflect back to the reader a wide slice of history—and the reflection is from a surface that many readers will be familiar and [...]
And, the corrolary question: why should anyone care? This question comes because I am a reactionary. So put off by the legions of readers who complain that a given book is bad because its characters unrelated or—worse—personally odious, I hypercorrect against caring for characters at all. Caring for a character is an emotional [...]
I’m going to do everything backwards with Jane Gardam. You’ll have to forgive me as I am a bit out of practice. The Man in the Wooden Hat was published in 2009 as a followup to the 2004 Old Filth, which tells the story of Sir Edward Feathers (aka Old Filth) from his [...]
Ava Bigtree is the undeniable star of Karen Russell’s 2011 novel Swamplandia!, and with good reason. She narrates at least half of the book, and her painful move toward acceptance of her mother’s death is clearly its centerpiece theme. But Swamplandia! is also a novel very much concerned with work. As a sort [...]