I’ve been a fan Tim Winton since I read The Turning, his collection of short fiction. His latest novel, Breath, is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Not only is the story itself exhilarating, the technique is controlled to the point of being invisible. Want to write? Here is a guide to the retrospective novel.
Tea Obreht, another “20 Under 40” has published her first novel: The Tiger’s Wife.
I read Tea’s short story “Blue Water Djinn” in the New Yorker’s collection, was immediately impressed by the control of the language and structure, and went and bought her novel. Many things I loved in her short story turned up in the novel as well: the descriptiveness and location choice, the control of language, and the use of animals as characters where they also keep their animal-ness (think Life of Pi’s tiger or Cloudstreet’s pig.)
At the same time, the animals and the layered descriptions paired with the multiple fairy-tale style story threads made me feel like I was reading several fables at once. The structure cut itself off at times with start-stop entries, and I’m not sure I was convinced when the narrative dipped into the history of minor characters, although those dips did add motive.
But back to good: the novel feels as if it’s holding up several fantastic moments, many small stories that aren’t properly fluid, but are worthy of being lifted anyway. And Tea runs sorrow throughout, which unites the tone.
It took me longer than I thought it would to finish this (I was frustrated by the length of some of the side stories) but it was worth the read.
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.