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Four from Surry Hills Library: 2 – and two OzLit blogs

star30 star30star30star30 ozshortstories_logo.indd Aviva Tuffield (ed), New Australian Stories, Melbourne, Scribe 2009.

This eclectic anthology of new stories showcases some of our finest short-story writers and proves that the short story is alive and well in Australia. From seasoned practitioners of the form through to rising and emerging stars of the short-story firmament, New Australian Stories caters for all tastes. There’s humour, mystery, drama, and even some delusion and deceit. Whole lives are captured in just a few satisfying pages. Ideal for dipping into and perfect for those seeking inspiration and escape, this collection is designed for your reading pleasure.

Contributors include: Cate Kennedy, Amanda Lohrey, Carmel Bird, Tony Birch, Nicholas Jose, Paddy O’Reilly, Max Barry, Margo Lanagan, Lenny Bartulin, Michael McGirr, Georgia Blain, Chris Womersley, Patrick Cullen and many more.

Perhaps it’s just me, but while agreeing there is plenty of variety I was struck by how many of the stories are concerned with ageing and dying. I do commend this anthology though. Nicholas Jose is in good somewhat comic form on a not quite as adventurous as she would like fictional grandmother. Wayne Macaulay’s “The Farmer’s New Machine” offers a somewhat Gothic solution to an agricultural problem. Isabelle Li looks at the ageing and dying issue from a Chinese Australian perspective in “A Fishbone in the Throat”. Paddy O’Reilly’s “Breaking Up” is admirably concise and takes the title in an unexpected direction. Chris Womersley’s “The Possibility of Water” is very clever.

I could mention many more; there are very few duds.

Scribe is one of Australia’s treasures – an independent publisher. The future of such ventures may be under a cloud in these times, not helped by the Book Supermarket-friendly mooted changes in our publication laws, an issue the founder of Scribe takes up in his blog. It is also mentioned, though with less apprehension, by this reviewer.

If short stories are biopsies, then the writers of New Australian Stories are skilled surgeons. The best short stories can conjure a past and a future out of a segment of present. Lots of the stories in this collection do this well. Highlights for me included Abigail Ulman’s Chagall’s Wife, whose tale of a high-school student angling for the attentions of a teacher easily evokes the nonchalance and unexamined alertness of burgeoning sexuality. It also stands out for its lean, direct prose; most of the other stories have a tendency towards fleshier prose which can sometimes be less effective. Another stand-out was Vivienne Kelly’s The Third Child. In this story, Frances writes yearly letters about her unchanging life to an aunt who lives abroad. Kelly’s restraint is admirable and pays off in an unexpected way; it’s a breathtaking story.

In relation to the talk of eliminating the territorial copyright provisions, there has been some fear that if it were to go ahead, uniquely Australian voices and stories would be lost. I get the feeling that the production of this kind of book will be negatively affected by major changes to the Australian parallel importation laws; I’d guess that the risk to independent Australian presses of putting out works by new (to books) Australian authors put is offset by their domestic sales of big-ticket overseas titles and books by established local heroes. The way the Productivity Commission is going (i.e. arbitrarily hedging their bets), if you love short stories, you should buy books like these and make them bestsellers in their own right.

And that is from the first of some new (to me) literary blogs I found while searching for New Australian Stories. It’s 3000 BOOKS // LET’S TELL MORE STORIES.

Another is Angela Meyer on Crikey Blogs: LiteraryMinded.

 

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Four from Surry Hills Library: 1

star30 star30star30star30star30star30 wandstarSM J M G  Le Clézio, Wandering Star (translated by C Dixon, Curbstone Press 2004) — “a deeply moving novel about a two young girls caught up in the turmoil of the Middle East, who aspire for peace–Esther, a Jewish girl who takes part in the founding of Israel, and Nejma, a Palestinian girl who becomes a refugee.”

This beautiful novel eschews overt politics, but is no less powerful for that – in fact perhaps all the more moving because it avoids propaganda and displays a warm but realistic empathy with both characters. Here is an extract.

Hélène

Saint-Martin-Vésubie, summer 1943

She knew that winter was over when she heard the sound of water. In winter, snow covered the village, the roofs of the houses and the fields were white. Icicles formed on the edges of the roofs. Then the sun started burning down, the snow melted, and water started trickling drop by drop from all the roofs, the joists, the tree branches, and all of the drops ran together forming rivulets, the rivulets ran into streams, and the water leapt joyously down all the streets in the village.

That sound of water might be her very first memory. She recalled the first winter in the mountains and the music of water in spring. When was that? She was walking between her mother and father down the village street, holding their hands. One arm was pulled higher because her father was so tall. And the water was running down on all sides, making that music, those whooshing, swishing, drumming sounds. Every time she remembered that she felt like laughing because it was a strange and gentle sound, like a caress. She was laughing then, walking between her mother and father, and the water in the gutters and the stream answered her, rippling, rushing.

Now, with the burning summer heat, the deep blue sky, her entire body was filled with a feeling of happiness that was almost frightening. More than anything, she loved the vast grassy slope that rose up toward the sky above the village. She didn’t go all the way up to the top because everyone said there were vipers up there. She’d stroll a little way along the edge of the field, just far enough to feel the cool earth, the sharp blades against her lips. In places, the grass was so high she completely disappeared. She was thirteen years old and her name was Hélène Grève, but her father called her Esther…

Le Clézio won the 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature. Definitely my top read so far in 2009

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2009 in Best read of 2009, book reviews, Fiction, Israel, Middle East, writers

 

The American Dream – Vanity Fair, Howard Fast, and some right-wing flummery…

Very late on Sunday night ABC1 ran an old documentary on US communist writer Howard Fast, best known these days for his novel Spartacus, on which the movie by Stanley Kubrick was based. Since Fast died in 2003 the doco had to be quite old; it included extensive interview material. Fast left the US Communist Party – which he had been in and out of – in 1956 following Kruschev’s revelations about the Stalin years and other events of 1956 in Europe. He was quite a man though, first published at the age of 19 and last published in 2000. His life is a neat alternative history of the USA. There is a good site on his work. Until seeing the documentary I hadn’t realised Howard Fast wrote crime fiction under a pseudonym – especially during the years of internal exile in the Cold War days. And during World War II – while a communist – he virtually was the Voice of America.

When I was a boy, I developed a passion for Howard Fast’s novels, and read all I could find in my school library. Then, one day, I no longer found his books. Fast was blacklisted for being a member of the American Communist Party…

"…in May 1952 The New York Times reported intimidation of librarians across the nation by Legionnaires, by Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution, by Minutemen in Texas and California. School texts showing city slums, UNESCO material, all books by such threats to the free world as Howard Fast were purged from school libraries."   (Victor Navasky, "The Social Costs," in Naming Names, Viking Press, New York, 1980)

Citizen Tom Paine, formerly used as a school text, was banned from use in NYC schools. In 1956 Fast broke with the Communist Party, and published his rationale in 1957 as The Naked God. His 1990 memoir Being Red goes more deeply into the issue.

So with that in mind I read with interest (via Arts & Letters Daily) Rethinking the American Dream by David Kamp in Vanity Fair. It is a good example of the introspection going on post-Bush.

…Whatever your opinion of [Norman] Rockwell (and I’m a fan), the resonance of the “Four Freedoms” paintings with wartime Americans offers tremendous insight into how U.S. citizens viewed their idealized selves. Freedom from Want, the most popular of all, is especially telling, for the scene it depicts is joyous but defiantly unostentatious. There is a happily gathered family, there are plain white curtains, there is a large turkey, there are some celery stalks in a dish, and there is a bowl of fruit, but there is not a hint of overabundance, overindulgence, elaborate table settings, ambitious seasonal centerpieces, or any other conventions of modern-day shelter-mag porn.

It was freedom from want, not freedom to want—a world away from the idea that the patriotic thing to do in tough times is go shopping. Though the germ of that idea would form shortly, not long after the war ended…

…what about the outmoded proposition that each successive generation in the United States must live better than the one that preceded it? While this idea is still crucial to families struggling in poverty and to immigrants who’ve arrived here in search of a better life than that they left behind, it’s no longer applicable to an American middle class that lives more comfortably than any version that came before it. (Was this not one of the cautionary messages of the most thoughtful movie of 2008, wall-e?) I’m no champion of downward mobility, but the time has come to consider the idea of simple continuity: the perpetuation of a contented, sustainable middle-class way of life, where the standard of living remains happily constant from one generation to the next.

This is not a matter of any generation’s having to “lower its sights,” to use President Obama’s words, nor is it a denial that some children of lower- and middle-class parents will, through talent and/or good fortune, strike it rich and bound precipitously into the upper class. Nor is it a moony, nostalgic wish for a return to the scrappy 30s or the suburban 50s, because any sentient person recognizes that there’s plenty about the good old days that wasn’t so good: the original Social Security program pointedly excluded farmworkers and domestics (i.e., poor rural laborers and minority women), and the original Levittown didn’t allow black people in.

But those eras do offer lessons in scale and self-control. The American Dream should require hard work, but it should not require 80-hour workweeks and parents who never see their kids from across the dinner table. The American Dream should entail a first-rate education for every child, but not an education that leaves no extra time for the actual enjoyment of childhood. The American Dream should accommodate the goal of home ownership, but without imposing a lifelong burden of unmeetable debt. Above all, the American Dream should be embraced as the unique sense of possibility that this country gives its citizens—the decent chance, as Moss Hart would say, to scale the walls and achieve what you wish.

On the same page of Arts & Letters Daily was one of those insufferably humorous pastiches of social “analysis” some on the Right seem so fond of – rooted in a superficial knowingness, in impregnable smugness and snobbery masquerading as “conservatism” but really just marking and confirming territory – or “Aren’t I glad I’m not a prole, and neither of course are you!” You know the genre. Here in Oz we have a number of practitioners, not all of them named Tim. The case at hand is a slash at Facebook, and it gives itself away a bit by using the term “sheeple” for those who inhabit the site. Oh, and it’s in the Weekly Standard – of course. See Down with Facebook! by Matt Labash.

What nobody bothers to mention about the social-networking site is that it’s really dull–mind-numbingly dull.

Look at the outer shell–the parachute pants, the piano-key tie, the fake tuxedo T-shirt–and you might mistake me for a slave to fashion. Do not be deceived. Early adoption isn’t my thing. I much prefer late adoption, that moment when the trend-worshipping sheeple who have early-adopted drive the unsustainable way of life I so stubbornly cling to ever so close to the edge of obsolescence, that I’ve no choice but to follow. This explains why I bought cassette tapes until 1999, why I wouldn’t purchase a DVD player until Blockbuster cashiered their VHS stock. Toothpaste? I use it now that it’s clear it’s here to stay.

So I’m not inflexible. But there is one promise I’ve made to myself. And that is that no matter how long I live, no matter how much pressure is exerted, no matter how socially isolated I become, I will never, ever join Facebook, the omnipresent online social-networking site that like so many things that have menaced our country (the Unabomber, Love Story, David Gergen) came to us from Harvard but has now worked its insidious hooks into every crevice of society…

…the reason to hate Facebook is because of the stultifying mind-numbing inanity of it all, the sheer boredom. If Facebook helps put together streakers with voyeurs, the streakers, for the most part, after shedding their trench coats, seem to be running around not with taut and tanned hard-bodies, but in stained granny panties with dark socks. They have a reality-show star’s unquenchable thirst for broadcasting all the details of their lives, no matter how unexceptional those details are. They do so in the steady, Chinese-water-torture drip of status updates. The very fact that they are on the air (or rather, on Facebook) has convinced them that every facet of their life must be inherently interesting enough to alert everyone to its importance.

These are all actual status updates (with name changes): "Maria is eating Girl Scout cookies. … Tom is glad it’s the weekend. … Jacinda is longing for some sleep, pillow come to momma! … Dan is going to get something to eat. … Anne is taking Tyler to daycare. … Amber loves to dip. I can dip almost any food in blue cheese, ranch dressing, honey mustard, sour cream, mayonnaise, ketchup. Well, I think you get the point." Yes. Uncle. Please make it stop. For the love of God, we get the point…

Well OK, the article really IS funny, if also silly. What Facebook is like for you really is up to you. You don’t have to use all those gizmos it offers, nor do you have to accumulate “friends”.

You may as well rail against the telephone – and I am sure there were conservatives who did.

On the other hand – and Jim Belshaw has succumbed I see – you’ll never catch me Twittering! 😉

 

Friday poem #6 – A E Housman “On Wenlock Edge”

Bit of a classic today. You may find a generous selection of Housman’s work here together with links to more information.

XXXI
On Wenlock Edge the wood's in trouble;
  His forest fleece the Wrekin heaves;
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
  And thick on Severn snow the leaves.
 
'Twould blow like this through holt and hanger
  When Uricon the city stood:
'Tis the old wind in the old anger,
  But then it threshed another wood.
 
Then, 'twas before my time, the Roman
  At yonder heaving hill would stare:
The blood that warms an English yeoman,
  The thoughts that hurt him, they were there.
 
There, like the wind through woods in riot,
  Through him the gale of life blew high;
The tree of man was never quiet:
  Then 'twas the Roman, now 'tis I.
 
The gale, it plies the saplings double,
  It blows so hard, 'twill soon be gone:
To-day the Roman and his trouble
  Are ashes under Uricon.

Patrick White used this as an epigraph to his great novel The Tree of Man.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2009 in poets and poetry, writers

 

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2009 book notes 2

Grace Notes cover.indd Four diverse choices from Surry Hills Library.

1. Cormac Millar, An Irish Solution (2004)

I read and greatly enjoyed Millar’s second novel The Grounds in January. I was glad to find his first novel which was alluded to time and again in the second, although The Grounds also stands alone quite well. I have to say I enjoyed The Grounds more, though I still rate this clever novel ***** and add it to my best reads of 2009. For more on Millar go to that January entry.

2. Sheri Holman, A Stolen Tongue (1997)

The title is literal as well as figurative. There are some high praise grabs from some famous people on the covers and fly leaf, but The Name of the Rose this isn’t. It is not without interest in its portrayal of the medieval mind, but I do tend to agree with this blogger.***

3. Jenny Pattrick, Grace Notes (2008)

This one is from New Zealand. The central characters are all in their eighties. Occasionally Grace Notes is a little cloying, but generally speaking it is very witty and often insightful. Some episodes are quite brilliant, and it did retain my interest. Pattrick captures voice very well. I couldn’t but compare the manners portrayed as reflecting an Australia (in my experience) of long ago, but imagine there are parts where the New Zealand portrayed in Grace Notes would still apply here. It is a very warm and genuine book. I was reminded a little of McCall Smith. ****

4. Shobhaa De, Sultry Days (1994)

This is from India. I can imagine many Indians may find her offensive. In The Nation (May 2004) is a profile of Shobhaa De titled The Maharani of Muck.

Shobhaa De, perhaps better known here as the Maharani of Muck or the Princess of Porn, is India’s most commercially successful English-language author. It’s a crazy claim for a 56-year-old middle-class Indian woman–one who describes herself as a "traditional" mother to six children–to be able to make. But sex sells, even in one of the world’s most socially conservative countries. Bucking all convention, for years De has dared to write lusty, shocking sex scenes, and from a female point of view. In a country where women rarely bare more than two inches of leg and hardly ever file for divorce, she writes about women who, like herself, flee marriages because they are bored. De is author of more than a dozen titles, all of which start with the letter "s" (Sultry Days, Starry Nights, Strange Obsession–you get the point) and all of which depict a level of privilege that most of India’s more than 1 billion impoverished masses cannot even imagine.

The India De knows and writes about is also a far cry from the India pictured by most writers, that of abject urban poverty or quaint village life. "My books put an unflinching gaze on upper-middle-class India," she says. "It wasn’t done before, mainly because we didn’t have writers out of that class." Although her readership represents but a tiny fraction of India’s population–only about 2 percent of India reads English–De’s books are consistently bestsellers, which means they sell between 20,000 and 30,000 copies. Those sales figures sound meager, but they make her Penguin India’s star, and the publisher can’t get enough of her. This year Penguin is repackaging her entire oeuvre in a sleeker format to position her better in the mass market. De’s editor, Karthika Menon, is especially enthusiastic about her second novel, Starry Nights, which she calls "near classic in its freshness and vitality." …

Shobhaa De has a well-rehearsed rebuttal to the criticism that she writes only for the elite: "I don’t have to go live in a slum to prove that my heart bleeds for anybody. There’s no point in me writing for the poor because they are illiterate." De is well aware that, in addition to being the most popular English-language writer in India, she may be the most hated as well. She once boasted that she had received a record number of bad reviews–165–for one book. But she now says that writing forthrightly about sex, as she did in Starry Nights, was a childish rebellion against the strict protocol for women’s behavior in India. "The bad press was just something that acted like a prod to see how far I could take it, and I really didn’t give a damn."…

I found the novel enormously entertaining. ***** Best read of 2009

Shobhaa De is also a blogger.

 
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Posted by on March 3, 2009 in Best read of 2009, book reviews, Crime and/or crime fiction, Fiction, reading, writers

 

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Book reviews concluded

First a “neglected classic”  — James Hanley, Boy (1930 – Oneworld Classics edition with extra material by Chris Gostick 2007). I do recommend Oneworld Classics; there are some excellent titles there, and if they are all as well presented as Boy the series is well worth looking for.

Hanley’s novella was banned for years. There is a detailed account of that on Penniless Press.

But in spite of this outcry from respected figures in the literary world, Boy remained banned from 1935 to 1991, with the exception of two reprints by Jack Kahane’s Paris-based Obelisk Press (in 1936 and 1946) from which Hanley did not receive a penny in royalties.[35] The effect of such a legal case so early in the career of an up-and-coming author was devastating, and it haunted him for the rest of his life. Hanley’s strongly Catholic family were horrified by the incident,'[36] and as John Fordham notes, Hanley himself was outraged by "the publishers’ ‘sheer greed’ in issuing his novel in such a provocative format in the first place, and at their betrayal of professional integrity in their admission of guilt."[37] But the indignity would seem to have severely affected Hanley’s professional confidence too. He refused to speak of Boy for years afterwards and turned down all publishers’ requests for a reprint: although Horizon came close to securing the rights to a fiftieth anniversary edition around 1981, Hanley backed out at the last minute and there was to be no new release of Boy in his lifetime.[38] In the essay ‘Oddfish‘ quoted earlier he is quite scathing about the novel, calling it "shapeless and crude and overburdened with feelings,"[39] and claiming it was a rushed job produced in just ten days. (This is, as Fordham points out, not the case; Boy was in the planning stages at least as early as 1930, one year before its publication.)[40] But the trial of Boy also put a stop to the truly innovative experiments with gender and sexuality that make Hanley’s early works such as The German Prisoner and A Passion Before Death so exciting. After 1935 Hanley turned his attention to more archetypal proletarian writing without the daring homoerotic elements that had featured in his output before then. Dull, formulaic love stories like Stoker Bush (1935), reportage books such as Grey Children (1937) and the overlong and over-rated family drama that is The Furys Chronicle are the products of Hanley’s insecurity about writing books that might have been received in the same way that the 1934 edition of Boy was.

Here perhaps we see just how much wrong can come of the sort of paranoid literary censoriousness that characterised the 1930s. Boy is, as Ken Worpole puts it, "a truly disturbing novel;"[41] it is, in the words of Edward Stokes, "horrifying and dreadful… sordid and horrible,"[42] and it is, to quote Frank G. Harrington, "a gruesome story of the fate of an inarticulate victim."[43] But because the law could see no purpose to the horrors it portrayed other than to lead the country into moral ruin, the creative development of a writer who may have had much more to say on this subject was abruptly curtailed and altered. It’s only with hindsight now that we can see that Hanley’s works of the early thirties were the best he ever produced. This is not to downplay the quality of his writing produced after the trial some of which is excellent. It’s merely to illustrate that, had it not been for the intolerant spirit of the time in which he worked, the writing of James Hanley might have taken a very different course, and Boy would be recognised not for the reasons it is today, but for its inherent quality as a bold and powerful work of 1930s English literature.

Even the Oneworld edition has a clear gap in the chapter describing an “initiation ceremony” on the Liverpool docks; according to Chris Gostick’s afterword, the one good manuscript copy has about four pages of detail which have clearly not found their way into print yet.

I found it bleak indeed, but a great corrective to romantic ideas about the past, and indeed about the working class, even if it is very much on the side of the working class. But there isn’t much hope in Boy. It isn’t nearly as good as Conrad, despite some of the more overheated rhetoric of Anthony Burgess in his preface, but it is more realistic and more honest than D H Lawrence. There are some passages of memorably bad writing, but others that are quite wonderful. I do think enough of it to add it to my Best Reads of 2009. Ken Worpole, a chronicler of working class writing, notes:

Yet these faults are minor compared with the enduring literary impact of the novel’s description of adolescent humiliation. It can be easy to forget just how brutalising physical labour can be. As a former soldier and merchant seaman, Hanley never did. His novels often centred around individuals and small groups trapped by circumstances, and driven to extremes. I interviewed him shortly before his death: a polite, modest and pugnacious man who declared himself obsessively fascinated by those deemed inarticulate, yet whose inner worlds were, in his words, "like great forests or endless seas". Overwrought at times, Boy remains unforgettable; and the meek have yet to inherit the earth.

The second novel is really very good: David Hewson, Dante’s Numbers (2008). It appears that we have a Da Vinci Code takeoff from the title, but this is not really the case. It is much less pretentious, much more ironic, and very much better written that the Great Brown. I give it an 8/10, I think, just short of a “best read”. Perhaps it falls short because I have also been reading Jesse Kellerman’s quite outstanding novel, which I reviewed here yesterday.

You may see what another reader thought here.

In my mind Dante’s Numbers is action-packed suspense at its most intelligent. By transplanting Nic Costa and his fellow Italian detectives into the dizzying world of Hitchock’s ‘Vertigo’ in San Francisco the author is able to juxtapose the US and Italy. This makes for some fascinating plot and character developments.

The absence of clichéd police officers is to be highly commended. Although pathologist Teresa Lupo is a light-hearted character, she doesn’t hang around making horrible jokes. All four of the main characters are thoroughly plausible human beings.

There is a great author blog too: davidhewson.com.

 
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Posted by on February 5, 2009 in Best read of 2009, book reviews, Crime and/or crime fiction, Fiction, reading, writers

 

Quote of the week, and book reviews 1

The quote of the week comes from the best of this week’s three books, The Brutal Art by Jesse Kellerman (2008).

I’ll end as I began: with a confession. I am not now, nor have I ever been, nor will I ever be, a genius. Odds are, neither are you. I feel obligated to point this out, both because it has taken me a while to understand my own limitations and because these days we’ve gotten the idea into our heads that every person has infinite potential. The briefest spell of sober reflection reveals this to be a gentle lie, designed to cradle those with low self-esteem.

Ordinariness is nothing to be ashamed of. It carries no moral weight. I don’t believe that geniuses are worth more in some cosmic Blue Book. They are worthy of more attention, of course, because they’re so rare – one in a million, or rarer. What that means for the rest of us is that someone has to be the first of the remaining 999.999 souls; and the higher up you are, the closer you are to the genius’s vantage point.

To pursue that – to clamber up – to stretch out fingertips in the hopes of grazing the surface – can you imagine a more uniquely modern aspiration? A better metaphor for our oversaturated era than the desire to be president of the fan club? The hero for the age is Boswell…

Bit of a genius himself is Kellerman, and yes a US writer. The Guardian preview notes:

Faye and Jonathan Kellerman are both bestselling thriller writers, but it seems that their greatest contribution to the genre could be their son, Jesse, whose latest psychological drama is as startlingly original as his first two. This author, already an award-winning playwright, has no need of blood and bullets to build tension; he knows exactly which buttons to push to keep readers anxiously engaged – even when the plot apparently involves nothing more sinister than a New York art gallery owner, Ethan Muller, who discovers a cache of brilliant but disturbing drawings by a mysterious artist who has since disappeared. Kellerman writes with grace and style, and shows nimble creative footwork when long-buried secrets about Ethan’s own family begin to break through the fictions carefully constructed by people who want the past to remain somewhere else.

“An essential read for all, The Brutal Art is the best thriller I’ve read in years.” That’s Civilian Reader’s view. I would agree. Definitely a best read of 2009.

From Jesse Kellerman’s site (linked above):

Who are some of your favorite writers?

This is a very partial list that follows no particular order.

My parents
Vladimir Nabokov
Stephen King
Evelyn Waugh
Jim Thompson
Ruth Rendell
Elmore Leonard
John Fowles
Kurt Vonnegut
David Mamet
David Ives
Sam Shepard
Graham Greene
Samuel Beckett
Tom Wolfe
Richard Dawkins
Both the Bible and the Bab

Two more book reviews to come…

 
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Posted by on February 4, 2009 in America, Best read of 2009, book reviews, Crime and/or crime fiction, Fiction, reading, USA, writers