Thursday, June 9, 2011
Thunderstorms are here. It rains, it snows, it suns. Here in Jackson, a liminal state has usurped the steady rains of spring and, now caught between seasons (or in Dwight Yoakam' s words: "I'm a thousand miles from nowhere...ooh haa.... "), it's not poncho-, parka-, or speedo-time, it's poncho-, parka-, and speedo time -- all in the same few minutes. And it's maddening. It's hobby-horsical to the nth degree. But you know, I guess that's a reading season. To me, that's good reading time; of course a book's never so fickle as the weather. So here are some of what's good lately:
David Mitchell's The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet (Hodder & Stoughton, $15.50) -- Occurring one of those settings which is as strange as it is real (and thus as extraterrestrial as historical), David Mitchell's latest is a sweet, sweet polyglot of a book which speaks historical novel, romance novel, and thriller with equal flourish. For a summary: it follows a young and intelligent Dutch clerk through both his personal and the Dutch East Indies' rise and fall; replete with historical insights from this less-studied era, and the winning plot of a NY Times best of the year, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet is not to be missed!
The Emperor's Children by Claire Messud (Vintage, $12.00) -- Evelyn Waugh meets Charlie Rose at his gloomy knight's table? Is that an accurate description of Claire Messud's generous and masterful ironic novels? (I suppose it'll do.) The Emperor's Children, snug to that description, I'd say, is as lush and complete a novel as Messud as written yet. Acutely observed, it's the story of three 30-somethings whose intersecting lives impede, impel, and importune those around them in in late 1990's New York in such a way as to reveal the state of a generation and their beloved city. Almost laughing out loud has never been so enjoyable! -- I promise!