Unique selections of books from our book buyer Paul Ingram. He compiles great lists of books on varying topics.
If you have any requests for recommendations, send Paul an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
November 14, 2015 - 9:32am
So You Don't Get Lost in the Neighborhood
The Nobel laureate in literature for 2014 is the amazingly talented Frenchman, Patrick Modiano. Yale University Press and David Godine had published translations of a handful of his novels and stories and this fall Houghton Mifflin has published Euan Cameron’s translation of so you don’t get lost in the neighborhood , his newest novel.
Novelist Jean Daragane is confronted by a stranger looking for a man whose name crops up in Daragane’s first novel written some twenty years ago. Daragane does not remember the character, but the stranger is insistant. The tone is spooky and Poe-like and all of the characters, including the stranger’s bizarre girlfriend are unreliable in their motives and their characters. The nosy stranger sets Daragane on a search through his past uncovering first one then another forgotten event from his past. A bit of a ghost story, a bit of an existentialist fable, a bit of a contemporary social satire. It weighs in at a bantam weight 158 pages, designed to be read slowly and carefully, as fine a short novel as we have so far this year. I’d love to see a clever French film-maker have a shot at it. Until then I’ll read the rest of Modiano’s fiction hoping they are all as good as this eerie new novel.
November 8, 2015 - 11:06am
Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster
I was as surprised as most with the Nobel jury’s selection of Russian journalist, Svetlana Alexievich as the new Nobel Laureate in Literature. I did remember, however, reading her terrifying, eerie Voices from Chernobyl in 1997 in its first American translation. Alexievich’s technique was simple. She went to Chernobyl and talked to many of the people who absorbed huge amounts of nuclear radiation from the largest nuclear reactor disaster in history. It is raw testimony, some eloquent, some surprisingly simple. Voices of people who stayed, many scarred physically and mentally, come off the page leaving the reader with the very real idea that nuclear accidents can happen anywhere. Alexievich’s interviews point as closely to the truth of what happened as is possible.
Rereading the book now, brings alive the same strangeness, a little like a horror film. It made me wonder what had happened to the interviewees in the years since Alexievich directed her earnest, compassionate questions in their direction. Few Americans would have objected to awarding the Nobel Prize to Studs Terkel. Svetlana has had darker, fowler smelling fish to fry than the jolly Terkel; and her few books deserve to be remembered as long as human beings need to be warned of the consequences of their hubris.
Voices From Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster. 16.00
Zinky Boys, a collection of interviews with Russian soldiers, who fought in Afghanistan, is also available in a 15.95 paperback.
Murakami will have to wait. The Nobel judges should sleep well.
November 7, 2015 - 9:41am
The New and Improved Romie Futch
Julia Elliott, the full treatment Elliot from which you can remove an l and a t and still have your Elliott, is a South Carolinian fiction writer whose low-rent characters will stretch the imaginations of most northerners. The New and Improved Romie Futch is her hilarious first novel and Romie Futch(male) is a bit of a loser; a taxidermist, a failure at love and money, and finally, the subject of experiments which rather suddenly change his brain capacity several-fold, without changing his interests much. Elliott’s humor embraces the American south, while getting in at least two or three very good snide ones in on every page. She’s a southerner and knows southern culture for what it is. She is a writer who knows what writing can do and has more fun at it than most of her kind. Charles Portis does it better, but almost no one else. Want to know who Hogzilla is? Start reading.