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Showing posts from July, 2018

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…

Tree Of Smoke by Denis Johnson

Back in 2011 I smarmily proposed to get around to reading the tattered and slightly mildewing proof copy of the 2007 novel, Tree Of Smoke, by Denis Johnson, which I acquired, as I did with nearly all of my proof copies, through a tendency towards venality, via outwardly benevolent but inwardly self-interested sales reps, with the promise I would mos-def read it straight away and stick up a review on the corporate mouthpiece. This was mostly because Nobody Move was a shit-hot little number, and a very quick read at that.
Well, it’s taken me a further seven years to read it and almost another one to review it, and almost certainly because it is a big book; big not only because it could do serious damage as a projectile, somewhat incongruously so when considered against his previous output, but also because, as Jim Lewis said in the NY Times, it is a Major Novel, with Big Themes (another bloody Vietnam novel?*) and all that stuff.
Ah, prejudice, my old friend. Where would I be without you …

Ray Of The Star by Laird Hunt

I seem to be a fan or rather at least I find myself in the position that I accumulate and appreciate novels which by any other objective standard might or might not with very little pressing or pushing of authorial voice be deemed tiresome or exhausting due to quirks of structure both narrative and in the essential framework thereof such as for example those novels of John Barth whose reported speech when relating the tales of The Last Voyage of Somebody the Sailor reach ridiculous levels with the seventh or eighth or more iteration of new tale tellers or equally ridiculous or perhaps brilliant given the notional narrator and his predilection for rambling and palavering perhaps due to his enjoyment or over indulgence of Bavarian or Moravian ales at the local ale house the book-long sentence that is Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age by Czech author and personal hero Bohumil Hrabal hence the eponymous label attached to this review of Laird Hunt’s own attempt to write whole chapter…