It’s that time again, kids! Here are the books on our horizons.
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
It’s a tad embarrassing that I’m just now getting around to reading this. A Moveable Feast is Hemingway’s posthumous classic – a collection of memoirs from his days spent in Paris as a young man. Here we met Ezra Pound, James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein. Perhaps this is as close as we can come to experiencing life as the Lost Generation knew it. A Moveable Feast can, however, still be used as a travel guide into the past as Hemingway delivers exact locations for many of the cafes and other locations around Paris. Although, I think what I enjoy most is the glimpse into the ‘making’ of one of America’s greatest writers.
Gone to New York: Adventures in the City by Ian Frazier
I must be on a big city kick right now. Gone to New York is travel writer Ian Frazier’s attempt to define America’s largest hodge-podge. Thirty years worth of The New Yorker and Atlantic articles are combined to highlight and lowlight all aspects of the City. Frazier, who is originally from Cleveland, began writing for The New Yorker a year after graduating from Harvard. (You kind of have to hate him.)
Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
In his 1937 American classic about itinerant labourers in California, Steinbeck manages what few have been able to since: a simple story with simple characters that touches on issues of class, race, gender, and the human condition without holding the reader’s hand or hitting them over the head with emotional manipulation. Steinbeck is not only an artful writer and a master storyteller, but also a humanist with a profound capacity to understand and empathise with people from all walks of life. This is what makes him a truly great writer, and what continues to make Of Mice and Men a significant literary work. It also provides an interesting look at an often overlooked time and way of life, when Americans travelled the countryside as seasonal farm workers.
The Accidental by Ali Smith
I have been meaning to read more Ali Smith since falling in love with her collection of short stories, The Whole Story and Other Stories, while studying in London. The Accidental is the story of one family’s encounter with a stranger as told from the alternating perspectives of each character. I originally loved Smith for her boldness (and success) with linguistic and stylistic experimentation, and cannot wait to see how that manifests in novel form. Published in 2005, The Accidental won the Whitbread Novel Award for that year and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Steinbeck will be a tough act to follow, but if anyone can do it, I think it might be Smith.
The Sigh by Marjane Satrapi
I’ve been on a graphic novel binge these past two weeks. After reading such monumental works of the genre, such as Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, I was eager to read Satrapi’s latest, The Sigh, which was published in late 2011. The Sigh is much different than her autobiographical Persepolis both in form and content, and it reads largely like a fairy-tale you’d recite to your children at bedtime. The simple story, however, is accompanied with timeless themes of love, loyalty, and integrity. These themes not only strip my reading mind from all the excesses it sometimes accumulates but also makes The Sigh what it is, a Satrapi-authored book.
World of Wonders by Robertson Davies
World of Wonders is the third book in Canadian writer Robertson Davies’s Deptford Trilogy, and I cannot wait to continue on with the story. After reading the first two books, Fifth Business and The Manticore, I still don’t know what to expect from this Canadian. The Deptford Trilogy follows an eccentric, sometimes larger-than-life cast of characters who hail from, or are somehow connected to, the small village of Deptford in Eastern Canada. What makes this trilogy unique is that it doesn’t operate chronologically but rather follows a different main character’s personal, physical, and spiritual journey in each book. Fifth Business follows a wounded war veteran turned professor who devotes his life to the explorations of historical myths and saints. The Manticore follows one of his students, the son of a wealthy, famous, and severely troubled billionaire tycoon. This last installment follows a world-famous travelling magician who learned his first card trick as a boy from the main character of the first book.