Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Two Great Reads for This Summer

Since I’ve been out of school, I stopped buying into the whole “Summer Reading” idea. There are books you read to relax, books you read for entertainment, books you read to stretch your intellect... and it’s the use and not the season that determines what book I pick up. That said, the idea of “Summer Reading,” provides a great opportunity for book people to tell the world about the best books out there, and so here are two great books that have come out this summer that make great reading whenever you get to them.

There is No Year by Blake Butler. Told in vignettes and short chapters and using the space of the words on the page to help communicate the story, this is a drifting, imaginative, innovative novel, that often moves with the fluidity of poetry. The characters (if they can be called that) are father, mother, son, and, eventually girl, and the plot, if this book can be said to have one, follows the family’s interactions with the distorted and shifting geography and topography of their new house. The prose is exquisite. This is one of those rare books you can pick up, flip to a page, read for a few minutes, and then set down again to have a sip from your cold beverage and contemplate the view of the world from your porch. This book reminds me of Lydia Davis, Mark Z. Danielewski, and Jesse Ball (more on him in a bit) and sometimes even David Markson and Donald Barthelme. Butler has published two other books Scorch Atlas and Ever and edits HTMLGIANT, Lamination Colony, and No Colony. If you’re interested here is a full review of There Is No Year from my personal blog.

The Curfew by Jesse Ball. I teared up at the end of this book, even though I knew exactly how it was going to end. Part touching story about a father and a daughter navigating an indifferent world, part exploration of resistance to a totalitarian state, part homage to music, puppetry, art, and imagination, this is a stunning mix of emotions and intelligence and innovation and tradition. “The movement” is the most interesting idea I’ve come across recently about radical activism. Furthermore, Ball’s prose is almost folktale or legend-like. There is a timelessness to his style, so that even though his books exist in a time and place, you feel like they’ve always been there and will always be about the human future. Furthermore, this timelessness makes Ball's work accessible to a whole range of ages, so his work is also good for intellectually inclined teens. Jess Ball is the author of two other novels Samedi the Deafness and The Way Through Doors. Fans of his work will be thrilled to know that a collection of his other work has been released called The Village on Horseback. Along with two books of poetry and other prose, it collects the otherwise hard to find Parables and Lies and his Plimpton Prize winning novella The Early Deaths of Lubeck, Brennan, Harp & Carr. He is an assistant professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he teaches classes on lying, lucid dreaming, and general practice. Here is an interview we conducted with him.

1 comment:

As the Crowe Flies and Reads said...

Nice post, Josh! I agree with you about The Curfew, at least what I've read of it so far. Hoping to finish it off this weekend...

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