Couple of narrative gut-punches this week. Yvonne Vera’s The Stone Virgins begins poetically, a series of loose meditations on Zimbabwe in the mid-twentieth century. Slowly, a plot and characters emerge, and by the end of the novel the full shape of what we’ve just read has been revealed. It’s both a portrait of a country and a deeply intimate story of one family, and is ultimately deeply moving on both levels.
Read my first John Fante novel last week as well: The Road to Los Angeles. This, too, left me feeling drained by the ending — specifically, the narrator’s shift from a generally precocious worldview to something much more wrenching. I’m being intentionally vague here, as part of what left me so impressed by the novel was how this transition came about. Needless to say, I’m eager to open Ask the Dust before long.
I’m slowly making my way through John Hawkes’s body of work; this past week, it was Second Skin‘s turn. I don’t know that I enjoyed it as much as, say, the concentrated fury of Travesty, but I found a lot to admire: Hawkes’s use of a narrator less unreliable than self-deluding; the way in which familiar settings were rendered surreal; the contrast between dense explorations of place and character and stark elisions of the same.
Today finds me reading Rebecca West’s The Fountain Overflows; one-third of the way in and I’m finding it charming, with a nicely bitter tinge. Something tells me I’ll be getting to Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, West’s massive work on Yugoslavia, before the year is out.
Ray Bradbury has come into my life by way of researching a book I’m working on. I love Fahrenheit 451 just like the next guy, but beyond that, I’ve been ignorant to everything the guy has written.
My research brings me to Dandelion Wine. Bradbury’s semi-autobiographical novel about life in a small Illinois town, 80+ years ago.
As I’m reading this, I keep wondering, “Have I been fucking up by not reading more Bradbury?” and “Is this the next logical step after only having read Fahrenheit 451? Should I give more of his works a chance?”
I finished up Ten Thousand Saints, and will have opinions later this week. Starting up on Tyrant Memory by Horacio Castellanos Moya, which New Directions put out a month or so ago.