two books you might enjoy:
janet evanovich’s ‘top secret twenty one’ &
susan coll’s ‘the stager.’
i have been quite negative about evanovich’s stephanie plum novels the past few years. she had taken formulaic writing to new lows, even to the edge of boredom. In ‘top secret’ however, she has returned to her formulas and her cast of characters (joe morelli, the boyfriend; ranger, the sex symbol (though joe isn’t so bad); grandma makur and her funerary viewings; and lula, the ex-ho) and made them fun again. no surprises here, but good entertainment for an evening of relaxation or a plane trip.
The 305-page novel is published by bantam books and sells for $28. it is probably available at your local library. I know for sure that it is available at the stark county district libraries.
In ‘the stager,’ susan coll has twisted the dysfunctional family novel in a few new directions. i especially give her credit for starring eve, an unemployed journalist-turned-stager as one of the chief protagonists. have you read a novel about a stager? i haven’t. it’s a peculiar profession and coll has developed a peculiar woman to take the role. we see most of the characters through her eyes. But coll does not try to trick or confuse the reader. First of all, she is good enough to have each character speak with an individual voice. To be sure we always know where we are, she also heads each chapter with the name of the character whose pov we’re sharing.
Slightly reminiscent of ‘we’re all absolutely beside ourselves,’ the288 page novel sells for $26.
Three short stories you also might enjoy:
In the anthology ‘even deadlier,’ which is a sequel to ‘the 7 deadly sins sampler’ published by the great books foundation, short stories by famous authors are paired with each of the seven deadly sins. They are probably all worth reading and thinking about. I have read the two selections under ‘lust’ and one under ‘sloth.’ You can find the stories individually on the internet. Try Aldous huxley’s ‘nuns at lunch;’ pam houston’s ‘cowboys are my weakness’; and dorothy parker’s satire, ‘the custard heart.’ You’ll like the stories and enjoy the many leveled connections you can make to the sins they illustrate.
You can order the anthology for $19.95 or again, find it at your library, at least at the stark county library.org.
emma healey's first!! novel 'elizabeth is missing' is an astonishingly good read. buy it. borrow it. read it.
we follow the deterioration of maud, the eighty-something year old narrator, as she sinks into dementia. we are not told she is getting worse. we see and hear for ourselves. also, this sounds like a pretty depressing novel, i know. it is not. it is written so skillfully and maud, not that i would want to be her caretaker, is such a charming, insightful woman that the story is a pleasure to read. yes, the final chapter is sad.
maud conflates her best friend elizabeth's disappearance in the present with that of her older and adored sister sukey's disappearance about seventy years ago. we gradually learn that, as we suspected, sukey was murdered. elizabeth was not. we learn the stories of the two women through maud's mind and through the way she interacts with her daughter, granddaughter, and various other well-drawn characters in the novel.
the writing is brilliant and a pleasure to read. If faulkner wrote it, it would perhaps be more art, more literary, but it would be work.
the 275 page novel is published by viking (good for them) and sells for 12 lbs. 99. you do the math.
on the other hand, why is it that stephen crane's 'maggie, a girl of the streets' is still on high school reading lists? I read it recently for the first time, amazed at how boring, narrow minded (didn't any irishman rise from the slums to write a book, make a discovery, become a politician?) and disjointed the story is. To be fair, crane is writing around censorship (publisher's and social) and is being experimental with the use of realism (life in the slums) and symbolism (maggie's shoes), and in other stories, 'george's mother,' for example, some charcters have some decency. I know that in 'maggie' one neighbor lets her stay in the neighbors' room overnight, but still...