Much as I love the EWN, it always seems to lowest on the many rungs of my totem pole (which might explain the average of six daily visitors here). It's not intentional and it's become so much easier to do a quick post on Facebook or elsewhere to make sure that what I'm reading gets seen by some people (more than here typically) but I do want this site to maintain an actual reading record. I still hope to do full reviews of these works before too long, but for now--some mini-reviews will have to suffice. So, some titles read this year that aren't among the dozen or so that were fully reviewed.
The Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones
A dystopian effort set in the future United States where the border, the Salt Line, is one that protects the citizens from disease-carrying ticks. The few that venture across said border are looking for kicks, typically the wealthy being taken on junkets to the danger zones. One of these trips is sabotaged and it leads to a novel about survival, and what one will do to make sure that they do survive. Written with the same empathy that HGJ's previous stories and novel were, it's a captivating read that would fit nicely on your shelf alongside Station Eleven (or Holly's other two titles).
This novel, his second, has the ability to crush you while you laugh; to make you smile while you feel like somebody has just punched you in the gut. To try to do a quick synopsis would be ridiculous—it’s one of those novels with THAT MUCH going on, but we’ll say this—it involves those that one might refer to as being on the more down and out side of things, their relationships with each other, with their offspring, with career choices good and bad, with hopes and dreams and love. And it handles all of them just about perfectly.
The Ladies-in-Waiting by Santiago Garcia with artwork by Javier Olivares, translated by Erica Mena
A wonderful graphic novel about Las Meninas, the painting by Diego Velazquez. Both the writing and the artwork are great. It's a fictional look, using this famous painting, at relationships between artists and their art, and their patrons, and their audiences. You'd swear three or four artists did the page work with the varying styles utilized throughout.
Some fantastic poetry by somebody I've had the pleasure of reading since seeing him read in Detroit years ago. Getting a chance to read his words between covers was a treat. Blount's work slides into an area I find myself really liking in poetry--capturing longing, and a hopefulness with his poems. Here's hoping this chapbook is only the appetizer for a future main course sized collection.
Gangsterland and Gangster Nation by Tod Goldberg
I'm putting the two in one bit here as they are deemed to be the first two parts of a trilogy. Gangsterland has Chicago mobster hit man Sal Cupertine make a mistake, which leads to a trio of FBI agents getting killed. The heat over this is high enough that Sal agrees to reconstructive surgeries and a move across the country, where he becomes Rabbi David Cohen, taking over for an aging Rabbi to run a congregation in Vegas. Gangster Nation finds Rabbi Cohen overseeing an operation that is running like clockwork, though personally effects from his surgery are driving him mad. At the same time, a couple of ex-FBI agents (ex having to do with Sal) are on the hunt for Sal. Both books go at a breakneck pace, are both hilarious and tension filled, and only leave one anxiously awaiting the news that number three is hitting stores soon.
So Much Blue by Percival Everett
In less than shocking news, I did in fact read Percival Everett's latest and believe it to be up among his top five novels so far. The novel of Kevin Pace, painter, written in both current time, about a decade ago when he had an affair with a younger French woman, and back in the 70's when he and his best friend went to El Salvador to try to track down said friend's brother, mixes the times and relationships like the pieces of a puzzle. Everett hits on some of his favorite themes, including the relationship between an artist and his/her work, and does so very well. Like most of Everett's work, it's written in a different style than most of what he's written before--and once again, it does not matter at all, the work is still excellent.
Barn Blind by Jane Smiley
Earlier in the year I'd started to read the first of Smiley's trilogy in the 100 year novel and I'd read a novella and some of her stories. At some point I decided I was going to read all of her work--and it seemed to make the most sense to me to start at the beginning, so I set aside Some Luck and began Barn Blind. It's a really well done story of a family and the way they learn to get along with each other, to work together to run a farm and horse riding school, how the ways of parenting can be seen through the actions of children. I've started her second novel and believe I'm going to be very happy with this reading project. It may end up coincidental that this is listed right after a Percival Everett title--I have a feeling I'm going to find two big similarities--widely changing styles and topics, and great writing.