Thursday, June 01, 2006

Mini Carny of the Bookish

Will the swanky cover of the dude in the mankini make you slaver for my review?

1) My latest review of J Milligan's Jack Fish is up at the Bookspot cavalcade. Do read and comment if you get the chance.

2) As part of Slate's Pulp Fiction Week, John Banville salutes Donald Westlake. The Jugger, mentioned here, is a permament resident of my bookshelf. It's a model, so fast and spare and breathtakingly cruel without bogging down in the graphic. It's the art of the well-placed blood daub, not grindhouse. Further, The Ax, a standalone, is one of the finest, most suprising and real novels I've read about an ordinary man pushed to extraordinary remedies. Westlake is both funny and chilling with such a clean style and sure touch that I think people forget how good he really is. Like a gifted butcher. Westlake's website has stale news, but a good interview, bio, and several different excerpts if you'd like a taste of what I mean.

3) Also from Slate, the busily-discussed article asking what are independent bookstores really good for. Do you buy the premise that they're a sop to the selves we wish we were?

4) John Sandford, a writer of "page-turners" (the new naming vessel for the pinch-nosed dismissal that used to be indicated by the term "pot-boilers") has confessed how much his latest book has changed since he began it, what major lines weren't working, and how real life intruded on the process. Reading how established authors still have to retrench projects and occasionally scrap them is useful and comforting. I like the candor, too, in sharing it as a bonus for readers online.

5) As I don't subscribe to The Atlantic Monthly, I can only read this article from the eyebrows up. Nevertheless, five years later, it holds true. I enjoyed as much of B.R. Myers' analysis as I could read:

Nothing gives me the feeling of having been born several decades too late quite like the modern "literary" best seller. Give me a time-tested masterpiece or what critics patronizingly call a fun read—Sister Carrie or just plain Carrie. Give me anything, in fact, as long as it doesn't have a recent prize jury's seal of approval on the front and a clutch of precious raves on the back...

More than half a century ago popular storytellers like Christopher Isherwood and Somerset Maugham were ranked among the finest novelists of their time, and were considered no less literary, in their own way, than Virginia Woolf and James Joyce. Today any accessible, fast-moving story written in unaffected prose is deemed to be "genre fiction"—at best an excellent "read" or a "page turner," but never literature with a capital L.

That's why Westlake isn't just one of my favorite crime writers, but one of my favorite writers and an authorial inspiration, full stop.

Now I must fill up the pots and pans before they turn off the water supply for the day. Luxury highrise, ya'll.


apostropher said...

Drop me an email (apostropher-at-apostropher) and I'll send you a pdf of the Atlantic article.

Henway Twingo said...

A great offer, thanks! Then I can pilfer more freely of the brilliance.

Julie Carter said...

I continue to wonder why something seems to have to be written in a convoluted, arcane, or inaccessible style to be considered "literary." I'll put Laurie King's writing up against anyone's, even if she writes "genre."

Henway Twingo said...

I'm with you-(in)humanity can be expressed powerfully and creatively in simplicity.