Phil, Queen's Square | June 1, 2019
If a novel can combine interesting characters without resorting to shock and clichés, distill life today (without being reductive), use language that makes the heart swoon, and is fearless in style and ambition -- well, I’ll bring the bookmark to that party!
Four novels come awfully close this month, and they do so in very different ways.
Ben Winters’s Golden State follows nineteen-year veteran detective Laszlo Ratesic who is trained to identify rifts in the cosmos that are created by lies. After being called to examine an unexplained death things start to get weird.
Things also get weird in Andre Alexis’s Days by Moonlight, an Ontario road trip novel featuring a professor and a botanist searching for a long-lost poet. The writing is delightful and features some of the most outrageously funny and satiric storytelling I’ve read.
Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive is also a road trip novel, as if written by an archivist. Told in multiple voices, including photographs, historical documents, and references to soundscape recordings, it tells the story of family, cultural and historical dissolution.
Tommy Orange’s There There tells the story of a looming Oakland Pow Wow from many points of view, creating a palpable sense of both Oakland and the dispossessed Cheyenne peoples who inhabit the city. “We shouldn’t ever not tell our stories”, one of the main characters says at one point. Orange’s novel is both audacious in its scope and style and proof that there are many stories to tell in this debut novel.
Next month we’ll look at some novels that focus on deep and rich characters: A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne, An Orchestra of Minorities by Chigozie Obioma, Machine Without Horses by Helen Humphreys, and Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata.
Where’s your lucky bookmark?