Posts Tagged ‘Novels’

Light Boxes by Shane Jones

Published March 16, 2010 by Molly

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Shane Jones’ novel Light Boxes opens with a beautiful little epigraph by Joseph Wood Krutch which reads:

“The most serious charge which can be brought against New England is not Puritanism but February.”

We can all agree on that, no? The snippet foretells the book’s central conflict, which is a battle against the month of February. Only “month”, in this case, is a misnomer: the February of Light Boxes is an endless season of bleakness, a metaphysical state, a spiritual personage, sort of, and an oppressor above all.

Not to get anatomical here, but the form and the language of Jones’ novel are important to think about, because both are unusual. The book is divided into segments of a few paragraphs or a few sentences, and the prose will splinter freely into a recipe, a list, a monologue, a catalog or a cryptogram without warning. Somehow the transitions feel seamless, like reading the direct transcription of a story told by someone with no regard for conventions but an instinctive grasp of narrative.

Don’t want to spoil the plot—it’s delicate!—but trust us that this pocket-sized treasure is worth devouring.

Books You Might Not Have Read Yet: An Expensive Education

Published November 20, 2009 by Molly

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Dollars to donuts this book got optioned the second it rolled off the presses. One need only list the ingredients to visualize the dollar signs popping up in movie exec eyes: a Harvard-educated preppy kid named Michael Teak performs spy business in Africa, investigates a rebel leader named Hatashil, and witnesses the bombing of an entire village under mysterious circumstances. Meanwhile, a Harvard professor who has won a Pulitzer Prize for a book heralding Hatashil as a renegade hero receives threats indicating that the freedom-fighter may be a terrorist. Plot threads intertwine. Kalashnikovs appear. Swahlili is spoken.

In other words, An Expensive Education is a book that combines suspense-novel hijinx with the interior world of a Holden Caulfield type (albeit a Holden who speaks Arabic and carries a handgun.) What’s not to love?

Department of Kid Heroes in Literature

Published September 9, 2009 by Molly

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Reading may be a universally beloved pastime, but good books aren’t necessarily universal. Language takes care of that. Books available only in their native French or Spanish or Czech may be amazing, but for those limited to a different tongue, they may as well exist in a parallel universe.

That’s why it’s such a pleasure to find that Italian wordsmith Stefano Benni has seen his novel Margherita Dolce Vita freshly translated into English. Benni–– a hugely famous satirist in his native country––is long overdue for American adulation, and Margherita is a perfect place to start.

The title character is a spunky young girl prone to fantasizing and wordplay; a kid whose braces clash when she smooches her boyfriend “like a duel in the Illiad”. A skewed constellation of family members and a mysterious neighbor seal the premise, with Margherita cast as resourceful and unlikely savior. Best part of all? There’s no need to splurge on an Italian-English dictionary in order to read the novel. Molto sweet-o.

Books You Might Not Have Read Yet: Bullet Park

Published June 4, 2009 by Molly

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When you think of John Cheever, you think of cold gin, marital problems and wool sweaters. A new biography of the deceased author has stuffed the book supplements of newspapers and magazines with glowing reevaluations of Cheever’s work, all deserved. What Jane Austen is to England’s eighteenth century, John Cheever is to midcentury East Coast suburbia. Draw your own conclusions.

Cheever’s short stories, dozens of them published in The New Yorker, are his calling card. But there are the novels, too, of which Bullet Park is strangest. Compact and readable, the book starts off in classic Cheever territory before veering into allegory and bloodshed. Possibly your dad has a copy lying around.