A Few Books

I recently read “The Flame Alphabet” by Ben Marcus. The book looks great, the title is good, and the premise (the language of children has become toxic) got me on a bus in search of it. Additionally, it has Big Names (Chabon, Sfran Foer) on the back pumping the book’s Awesomeness. And there is some awesomeness to the book–there’s a lot of great descriptions and the quality of writing is A+. There’s just…too much of it. And nothing really happens.

There are comprehensive (uncomfortable) reviews already out there, so I won’t go on, but reading “The Flame Alphabet” got me thinking of all the really great books I’ve read lately.

Here (in the order they came to me) are a few:

1. The Sisters Brothers ~ Patrick deWitt

A Western that doesn’t go where you expect it. Dark, funny, and surreal. A book that inspires writing (read: I wish I wrote this)

2. Breath ~ Tim Winton

I’ve admired Tim Winton’s prose since discovering his short stories “The Turning”, and while his stories seem well-knit I haven’t always loved the structure to his novels. This one, though, was fab: a lesson in retrospective.

3. The Golden Mean ~ Annabel Lyon

A novel about Aristotle, this book convinced me to try first person point of view (thank-you, Annabel.)

4. Civilwarland in Bad Decline ~ George Saunders

Bleak, funny, heartful; classic Saunders plus ghosts.

Writing Happy

Is it possible to write a happy story that isn’t…fake? There are plenty of examples of stories written with love–sad stories that are crafted with empathy–but an actually Happy Story? Not many. So here’s a good example: Andrew Kaufman’s new novel ‘The Waterproof Bible’ is a story about dealing with grief and emotion, yet is full of hope. Also frog/mer/people, a great flood, and a woman who keeps her feeling in (literal) boxes. I was thrown at first, unsure if I liked the prose and some of the leaps in fact the book asks the reader to make (despite having asked for rain makers there is no feel of drought) but by the end the vibe won me over. The simple, straight-forward prose pairs well with the tone and down-plays the oddities. Plus great title.