Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Voices! New Books!

Spring's here for good now, reminding that its time for a change. How about a great new book by a first time author?

Touch by Alexi Zentner (W.W. Norton, $19.96, 264 pgs.) -- Set in a wonderfully sleepy logging village somewhere in the remote and remorseless mountains of northern British Columbia, Touch is, in a few words, the story of a town, a boy, a family, and the mysteries of the woods. Part coming of age and part fairy tale, it's a solid debut by a great new author (whose previous short fiction won an O. Henry as well as a Narrative Prize in 2008!). Snow falls, golden caribou abound, sea fairies call you into the river's icy chunder -- it's really a fun, interesting, and beautifully casted novel. Try it out!

Moby Duck: The True story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalits, and Fools... by Donovan Hohn (Viking, $22.96, 416 pgs.) -- Hohn -- a former editor of Harper's -- clubs the duck right on the head in this wandering, sometimes elegiac debut. Coming across as something like an oceanographic journal that swam too close to New York Times Review of Books (without the pomp, of course), Moby Duck is both charming and intelligent as it carries the reader through Hohn's physical and metaphysical search for some 28,000 rubber duckies that fell off a cargo ship. Much more fun to read than that might sound, I promise!

The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht (Random House, $20.00, 352 pgs.) -- It hurts me to admit that Obreht, one of the most acutely brilliant authors to write in the English language in recent memory, is a just dumb 25 years old. What wisdom can she have earned, we might ask? What galling force, what courage can she be writing from? Well, read The Tiger's Wife and you've got it. Such a beautiful, smart book comes around only every so often, so you'd better not miss it. (And by the way it's about a doctor in a Balkan country repairing itself from years of war; and about secrets; and about family; and about landscapes...) Best book I've read in a while!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Saint. Patrick's. Day.

To get you in the spirit -- (though if you're not in the spirit imbimbing the spirits, then what's the point?) -- we've got some delicious, mind-dumbing BEEROK pairings to turn the greenest man into a Wildean-Joycean- Yeatsian lyricist before you can say Finnegan's Wake!

Roddy Doyle's The Dead Republic (Viking, $21.56, 336 pgs) and Rogue's St. Rogue Red Ale (Newport, OR) -- I'm pretty certain that I've reviewed this
book in one capacity or another, but when it comes to questions of Ireland and Irishness, nobody kicks the shamrock like Roddy Doyle does. This is especially true in The Dead Republic, which, while serving as the butt-end of the Henry Smart Trilogy, deals almost exclusively with the currency of 'Irishness' amidst the backdrops of Ford's "The Quiet Man," and the Irish Civil War. Doyle's hardy but stern prose makes this tale fly along all the faster, making you miss poor Henry Smart all the more at its finish. Rogue' s Red is the beer to drink while cruising through it for its bold and impressive self-awareness. Hoppy like a strong IPA but smooth like an Amber or American Pale, you'll be surprised and delighted as you rediscover just what you ordered.

Star of the Sea by Joseph O'Connor (Mariner, $11.96, 432 pgs.) and Sierra Nevada's Sierra Nevada Stout (Chico, CA)-- Written by a storyteller who's as much historian as he is wordsmith, Star of the Sea is a good novel and an even greater historical review. Beginning in 1847, at the height of the Great Potato Famine, it follows so many Irish men and women as they escape, dream, and occasionally philander their way into the America. And warning: it's not your typical Potato Famine Sob Story, which only reverberate upon the oft-told "Irish" woes of Catholic sorrow, drink, and sex. Warm up to it with a mug or two of Sierra Nevada's tasty, malty, aromatic Stout because, well... just because. It feels damn right.

Lastly, a bit of script from Finnegan's Wake, for your C.R.A.F.T. club to mull over:

"though a day be as dense as a decade, no mouth has the might to set a mearbound to the march of a landsmaul, in half a sylb, helf a solb, holf a salb onward the beast of boredom, common sense, lurking gyrographically down inside his loose Eating S.S. Collar is gogoing of whisth to you sternly how -- Plutonic loveliaks twinnt Platonic yearlings -- you must, how, in undivided reawlity draw the line somewhawre."

Best with more hard liquor than you'd dare to drink

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

(I'm so sorry for the colossal gaps between posts but it's been snowing pretty good here in Jackson which kinda means that everything else gets pushed to the side. Apologies, and here's the book the hour.)

Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything By Joshua Foer (Penguin Press, 307 pp, $21.56)-- I read it in November or so, and ironically enough, forgot all about it. (Ironic because it's a book about memory!). Anyways, after hearing Joshua Foer on NPR and reading about him in the NY Times magazine, I not only remembered it but remembered how really great it was, too. Let me limn it out: Foer, a struggling journalist seeking Plimpton-esque immersion into a fast-paced professional competition stumbles upon the World Memory Championships which, after much training and study of The Human Memory's place in history, science, literature, and such, he enters and ... well you find out for yourself (and anyways I forget). It's a really fun read that does a great job of describing the memory exercises and strategies Foer and other Mind-letes employ (the coolest and most central one involves walking around a big house in your head and looking at things...), and also makes a lot of sense out of the former importance memorization had in schools and for poets like Homer back, you know, then. CHECK IT OUT!

That's because the book is so much more that a seductive piece of investigative journalism that has you rooting for memory geeks and