Fiction

Her Every Fear by Peter Swanson

Peter Swanson writes thrillers and his last two, the only two I have read, are set in Boston and New England.

Her Every Fear is set on Beacon Hill, in Boston, where I used to teach, and it has a second strand of the story set in Belsize Park in London, near where I went to secondary school. How could I not read it?

The “Her” of the title is Kate Priddy, and she has arranged a flat swap with her cousin, Corbin Dell, who she has never met.  Kate is all alone in the opulent flat in Boston.  Then a neighbour disappears, who it turns out later has been murdered and Corbin is a suspect. Several creepy neighbours befriend Kate, but she suffers from some form of anxiety that may come from and although she lets them close, she is both nervous, but can’t step away.  The net closes in, and Kate is in real danger that stems from a meeting Corbin had as an exchange student in London many years earlier.

As a writer, Swanson is ruthless.  He draws a string around his characters and his readers until the bag is closed above their heads and there is almost no escape.  For the readers who like tightly written thrillers with an impressive sense of place his books are perfect entertainments.

Bookstrails website 

 

Want Teenage Boys to Read? Easy. Give Them Books About Sex.

Daniel Handler Handles an AccordionThere is a question about how to get more boys to read, and Daniel Handler’s answer is give them what they are interested in. The New York Times, writes:  “I believe in the power of literature to connect, to transform, particularly for young minds beginning to explore the world. I want books to be an unlimited resource for young people and their curiosity, not a sphere restricted by how uncomfortable some curiosities make adults feel.”

 

Read the whole article

Irmina by Barbara Yelin

A full-fledged novel that opens its wings and flies as a young woman sets out from pre-War Germany to London , returns to Berlin and ends in Barbados.  Yelin’s graphic novel opens up so much that happened in Europe in the twentieth century through Irmina’s finally unrequited love for a young Barbadian.

Irmina meets Harold, an Oxford student, at a cocktail party soon after she arrives in London, and she gets to know him as she attends a secretarial school and their romance deepens, through joyous times and the racism of the society, which she being German is outside.

In London, Irmina describes  herself to Harold as “typist, a Fraulein, Suffragette, Bluestocking, Communist and Emigrant.  She loses her accommodation, her parents are no longer able to send her money, and not wanting to become a maid, she returns to Germany, and reenters German society and meets a young architect, Gregor Meinrich.  Hitler’s power is increasing, and:

Gregor: “Progress isn’t being made anymore”
Irmina: “But it MUST! It HAS to go on! We’re sacrificing so much here!
Gregor gives up architecture and joins the German army.

In the final section, Irmina now a school administrator, receives an invitation from Harold to visit him in Barbados, where he has become the Governor General.

The colours of Europe are greys and browns. the Caribbean has a little more green and blue although they are still muted, and the air of melancholy that hangs over Irmina’s life is only brightened slightly in this last chapter.

irmina192

How to Be Human by Paula Cocozza

Foxed

New York Times review of  HOW TO BE HUMAN By Paula Cocozza 

Paula Cocozza’s hypnotic first novel, “How to Be Human,” features 34-year-old Mary Green and the urban fox that takes up residence in her London garden. Mary, who as a girl wrote letters to herself to stem acute loneliness, welcomes the vulpine caller. The fox is soon leaving tokens for her, “the kind a knight pledges before going into battle.” She begins to call him a friend. Within weeks, they’ve formed a natural intimacy. In this suspenseful tale animal and human behavior begin to meld, even reverse, and who’s dangerous and who’s endangered is not always clear.

278 pp. Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt & Company. $26.

Other reviews:

The Guardian

Publishers Weekly

Times Literary Supplement

The Economist

The pictures that go with the reviews

‘He was in her service. And she was in his’ … Paula Cocozza’s protagonist receives a visitor from the wild.

View original post

MIchael Moorcock: The Anti-Tolkein

Passing on this article from the New Yorker

A couple of quotes:

Moorcock’s first editorial in New Worlds.

“More and more people are turning away from the fast-stagnating pool of the conventional novel — and they are turning to science fiction (or speculative fantasy). This is a sign, among others, that a popular literary renaissance is around the corner. Together, we can accelerate that renaissance.”

“In 1978, Moorcock did a more thorough takedown in an essay called “Epic Pooh,” in which he compares Tolkien and his hobbits to A. A. Milne and his bear.”

RIP Robert M. Pirsig

ZatAMM meant a whole lot to me.  I still haven’t figured out how well the philosophy holds up, but it inspired me when I became a teacher–even though I read it at a time when I would not have become a teacher if you had threatened that Donald Trump was going to be president of the country I lived in, if I didn’t–and the idea of quality is powerful in so many parts of my life.  I love it more for the fact that my son read it and lives out many of the principles that Pirsig espouses.

This is the cover that will always live in my memory, even though the book fell apart some time ago.

New York Times Obituary
The Guardian obituary
Original New York Times review by Edward Abbey
WashingtonPost
LitHub
BoingBoing

Websites:
Levity

Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

Before the FallWhat first drew me to Noah Hawley’s current novel was the fact that the first two seasons of FX’s Fargo were some of the tensest, tightest, most strikingly filmed television programmes ever. Hawley is the show runner for the show, he writes a majority of the episodes and directs some of them.  To take someone else’s vision and remake it while keeping a sense of the original takes guts and skill. Noah Hawley

Before the Fall is all Hawley’s own work.  A private plane crashes in the Atlantic on the way from Martha’s Vineyard to New York.  On board are David Bateman, the founder and CEO of a Fox News type network, Ben Kipling, a  financier–“a blue-eyed shark in a tailored button-down shirt,” and Scott Burroughs, an artist.  The wealthy men have wives–Maggie is present in the story,  but the Ben’s wife is barely there.  Also on the plane are the crew and the Batemans’ children.  Only two of the characters survive, but everyone’s story is told.  The narrative moves forward with as Hawley looks back at the lives of most of the characters. As the book proceeds, and more of the story happens in the present, the back stories are still there.

While creating a mystery, Hawley manages to develop empathy for the crooked, the troubled and the heroic–not equally but enough to have woven a human tapestry from characters whose connection is the plane crash brought in later are treasury agents investigating financial misdeeds, the National Transport Safety Board the FCC, the FBI. Some of these agents become characters in the story.

Hawley examines how the media respond to the accident that killed on of their own and it becomes clear that the story takes over from the truth.  Some of the media are actively working that way, especially Bateman’s leading anchor, Bill Cunningham, others are just following the sensationalist’s lead.

But at the centre of the story are the two survivors and their bond even as the harsh world of finance, tabloid media and excessive world circle around them.

I came to the book from good TV, and went away with questions about TV and found a good book.Fargo Logo

The Guardian review of the book

George Saunders – By the Book

george-saunders-by-the-bookSomething makes me trust GS, and now I want to read: Things I already wanted to read; Moonglow, Swing Time,The Attention Merchants, We Have Always Lived in the Castle, and things I now want to read: Good Clean Fun (Nick Offerman), Words Without Music (Philip Glass), Resurrection (Tolstoy), and a slew of short stories.

I love that what most moves him are “depictions of goodness that are not fraudulent or sentimental.”

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/02/16/books/review/george-saunders-by-the-book.html