Now here's a question for you reader: Why do male authors seem to get so much more press and win so many more literary prizes?
In order to keep this positive, I'll start with the book I liked the most.
DeNiro's Game by Rawi Hage
Hage paints a vivid picture of the city, its casualties and the harshness of daily life, right down to the dust specks. No detail is beyond his ability to describe. If you found the Lebanese civil war confusing with its Christian and Muslim factions and its Syrian and Israeli presence, this book may clarify things for you.
This is a beautifully written book with a great twist. It was also the winner of the International Impac Dublin. I will be giving this book away this week. See details at the top of the right sidebar.
That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
Compared with Russo's Empire Falls, Nobody's Fool and the very funny Straight Man, That Old Cape Magic is my least favourite. What I disliked the most was the lack of humour, something that the author has always delivered on in the past. Russo writes in his acknowledgments that he has recently lost his mother, so maybe that explains the lack of laughs and the departure from his previous books. The Washington Post called this effort, "Marvelous . . . Utterly charming." Whateva!
I'll be dropping this off at S.W. Welch's store in the near future.
Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
Time Magazine for his latest book with the caption "the Great American Novelist." Nine years ago, he apparently said that he had not been comfortable having The Corrections, his previous chef d'oeuvre, be part of Oprah's book club. Not learning from her previous error, Oprah chose Freedom to be part of her book club, but Franzen was apparently not partial to having her sticker on his book because he was really trying to reach out to "male readers," and he didn't think that the dudes would go for it if they saw the Oprah sticker.
Aren't most writers just happy to have people read their book?
Anyway, the book is well written. The majority of it transpires in St. Paul, Minnesota. The characters Walter and Patty Berglund are environmentally conscious parents who always do the right thing. Patty is a stay-at-home mom who dotes on her children. Walter's best friend in college is punk musician Richard, whom Patty has always had a thing for. The characters are pretty bland. In fact, the most interesting character is Walter and Patty's son who rebels against his family and becomes a Republican. Somehow I got the impression that Franzen used Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine to flesh out his storyline. Yes, the story reveals many of the contradictions that we are living with today, but the book is not that memorable. The most interesting female character is Patty's sister, an actress who lives in New York.
I'll be dropping this one off at S.W. Welch's store in the near future too.
Heave by Christy Ann Conlin
used bookstore that owed me money paid me back in the only thing it had--books. This happened to be among the books I chose. Heave opens with Seraphina Sullivan, our main protagonist, spinning out of control. Although she's only 20 years old, she has both a drug and alcohol problem. She still manages to maintain her lifelong friendships with her less than perfect mates in the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. Conlin writes beautifully and creates compelling characters that remain simple and completely believable. Serrie's mother is overworked because her father, although kind, does not have any skills that make him even remotely employable. Instead he collects outhouses, which he installs on their property. They also live with the grandmother and aunt who are both understanding and irritable in equal measures; in other words, the family dynamic makes for some hilarious reading. Serrie's life eventually picks up after she gets out of rehab, but she has an understandable relapse. The root of her initial breakdown is revealed at the very end.
I've never heard of Christy Ann Conlin, but the Toronto Star said that the book should come with the warning, "Excess of Talent," and I think the reviewer is right. The Globe and Mail named it one of the best books of 2002.
This is Conlin's very first novel, which is on par with Hage's first effort in terms of the quality of the writing. So where's Conlin's international award?
I'll be giving away Heave next week.
Tell me, Shonda, what do they put in Maritime water? Why do so many great writers come from Nova Scotia and Newfoundland?
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