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Showing posts from May, 2011

Books of Note

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

Not surprisingly, like a lot of John Darnielle’s music, particularly those songs on the album The Sunset Tree (Pale Green Things springs to mind and is very much worth listening to), his writing only slowly reveals itself and its narrative direction. Not in any turgid or tedious fashion, but rather in an unhurried, gentler and more thoughtful way. Universal Harvester rolls gently along its path with only a few disconcerting and probably deliberate hiccups. It starts in Iowa in the 1990s with a young man, still living at home with his father but unable to leave because of the weight of his mother’s death, years before, in a car crash. The trauma tethers Jeremy and his father together like the gravitational pull of a dead star in a comfortable and predictable but numb orbit, but it’s never something that either of them can discuss openly.
Jeremy works at a VHS rental store, so we’re assuredly early-Worldwide Web era. His job is simple, repetitive, and keeps him and his father in entertai…

Masters of Atlantis by Charles Portis

As pick-me-ups go, I would heartily recommend a Charles Portis novel. After slogging through Sebastian Faulks (see Engleby) I was in a vile humour - as can be attested to by my lovely wife - so I was in the market for something less oppressive and more, well, Kurt Vonnegut-esque. Vonnegut is my regular antidote to being miserable, but I had used up most of my virginal Vonnegut resources in a bleak spell during so-called halcyon university days.

Having bought and read everything I could find which Vonnegut has published (including the delightful Sun Moon Star with Ivan Chermayeff and the script of the NET Playhouse production of Between Time & Timbuktu) except for his latest posthumous collection (which I’m keeping for a far rainier day than this – but more later), I worked through some of my lists of American authors of whom could be said that they were in some way quirkily satirical or blackly comic. Tao Lin (too bizarre for today), Jim Dodge (read ‘em all), John Barth (I just do…