I might be the non-fiction nerd in the store ~ natural science, religion, medicine, essays, criticism, philosophy, and poetry, poetry, poetry… (yes, Tom, I think poetry is non-fiction). I also enjoy reading plays. I’m impatient with fiction and re-read the classics. My taste in more contemporary fiction (read 1960 forward), is a little quirky… hard to classify: John Berger, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Michel Ondaatje, Barbara Kingsolver, Louise Erdrich, J.M. Coetzee, Arundhati Roy. I’m the one in the store who tends to display books that were hot thirty years ago! When was the last time you read Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca? How about Mary Renault’s Funeral Games?
This is a collection of thematically linked short stories that concern the lives of East Indian immigrants and their American-born children. I especially admire the title story, in which the private thoughts of a father are juxtaposed with those of his grown daughter. The disjunctions in their perceptions of each other are painful ~ but Lahiri reveals in elegant prose the deep love that undergirds all of these relationships.
There's steel at the center of this book ~ a hardness that doesn't let up until the end (when a dog makes all the difference in the world). The story's set in South Africa ~ and the country's racial strain is as much a character here as is David, a divorced and jobless professor, who tries to make something whole out of his shattered life by visiting his estranged daughter. The plot's hard and true, but this book's all about character.
The Niagara River
I'll make a plug for our newest U.S. Poet Laureate! Her poems are short lyrics ~ direct and unambiguous, but also intellectually and emotionally satisfying beyond their surface interest. These are poems that draw us back into second, third, fourth readings not because they're inaccessible (they' not) but because they continue to unfold in increasingly compelling ways.
Set in Ireland, this portrait of a large family whose members suffer in various ways because of a family secret that continues to haunt them is psychologically astute and compelling ~ we read not only to find out what happened when these now-grown siblings were small, but also to discover what will help them survive the pain of one brother's suicide.
The God of Small Things
This is a love story with plot turns that take your breath away and characters you won't be able to forget ~ ever. The story's strange and, finally, full of sorrow… and the setting's one of a kind ~ the southernmost tip of India. Years later, I continue to re-read the final excruciating chapter for its impact on my heart.
Part suspense novel, part love story, Du Maurier's rendering of atmosphere and place are as well drawn as any the Bronte sisters conceived, and her characters are as compelling as any of Austen's. Written in the late 30's, this novel holds up beautifully
Fadiman wrote one of my all-time favorites (The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down), and this little book is a gem ~ a literate and affectionate meditation on the deep pleasures of reading and book collecting. A book to savor.
Longtime pub friends follow through on a promise to scatter the ashes of one of their drinking buddies ~ a road trip that takes them from London to the coast. Along the way, tensions mount as long unspoken feelings begin to surface ~ including a surprise turn that proves unhinging for some, redemptive for others. This is a well-made novel ~ each chapter delivered in the voice of one of the characters, the larger story of their community arising out of this weave.