Clarissa Bourne is surely the first person to ever welcome jury duty with open arms. In The Book of You, though, the seven-week criminal trial—itself a gruesome play-by-play of a combined kidnapping/gang rape—comes as a strange relief to Clarissa, whose own life has devolved into a series of moves and countermoves as she attempts to evade the increasingly obsessive attentions of her coworker, Rafe Solmes. She even takes tentative steps towards striking up a relationship with fellow juror Robert—no small achievement, given both her background with Rafe and the messy breakdown of her last relationship. Unfortunately, Robert’s presence in Clarissa’s life threatens to send Rafe into new and more dangerous fits of jealousy, and as his actions become more alarming, Clarissa begins to compile a record of his behavior to take to the police.
Monthly Archives: September 2014
In honor of the Tolkien-inspired skirt I recently ordered (pictures soon to follow) I decided to tally up the various and sundry literary objects I’ve accumulated. The results:
Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like environmentally conscious literature has gotten a lot more imaginative in the last couple of years. 2011 gave us A. S. Byatt’s Ragnarok—a seamless interweaving of Norse mythology with 20th-century death and destruction—and now we have Invisible Beasts, a debut novel by poet and literary critic Sharona Muir. But while Ragnarok and Invisible Beasts share much in the way of purpose, they could hardly differ more in tone and approach. Ragnarok has a grimness and grandeur befitting its literally mythic scope; it overwhelms the reader in all the best ways. By contrast, Invisible Beasts plays primarily on its readers’ heartstrings; for all its forays into the realms of philosophy and evolutionary time, it’s a personal—even sweet—read. Which approach you prefer will likely be a matter of personal preference; both novels are smart, unique, and highly literary works. To be sure, the cozy warmth of Invisible Beasts can veer towards the precious at times, but by and large, the novel succeeds in its attempts to wed earnest appeal to rich, multilayered thought. Continue reading
The list of writers whose work achieved widespread recognition only posthumously is impressive: Emily Dickinson, Franz Kafka, and Zora Neale Hurston, to name a few. There’s a piquant poignancy to stories such as these; events may have conspired against these authors while they were alive, but now, at least, we appreciate their genius—a genius, moreover, that continues to resonate decades and even centuries later.
Late at night in a silent hospital, deep in the throes of a strange illness, one of The Fever’s “afflicted girls” records a message to the world: “Listen!…Whatever’s happening to us…It’s bigger than everything.” While this may or may not prove literally true by novel’s end—I’m not one to spoil a book entirely—it certainly has the ring of figurative accuracy. The effects of the girls’ mysterious illness seem to go far beyond the physical. “Are you sure it’s her?” one of the girls asks when she sees a friend in the hospital, and her question gets at the heart of an idea central to The Fever: that we—our bodies, our minds, our souls—are shockingly prone to change in the face of external pressure.
It’s always difficult when you want a book to be something that it isn’t. Do you judge it based on its own merits, or based on what it could have been? The former seems only fair, but when the promises held out by a book are as tantalizing—and as tantalizingly close to realization—as those in Edgar Cantero’s The Supernatural Enhancements, it’s difficult not to do the latter.
The Supernatural Enhancements is Cantero’s debut English-language novel, and it’s an ambitious one. A supernatural thriller told via journal entries, letters, and transcribed audio and video recordings, the novel bears more than a passing resemblance to Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, but it also hearkens back to a longstanding Gothic tradition of patchwork narratives (Dracula and Frankenstein both come to mind). Continue reading