WWW Wednesday. This meme is from shouldbereading.
• What are you currently reading?
Right at the moment I’m reading Kevin Barry’s City of Bohane. It’s very much an Irish “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” in that the narrative, which is omniscient with a sly “I” turning up now and then to remind you this is someone’s particular voice, is a fractured, futuristic Irish dialect. As a result the voice reminds me most of the late Russell Hoban’s Ridley Walker with its similarly distorted and broken Cockney. Or maybe Hoban married to Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting. We have “pikeys” for gypsies and “Sweet Baba Jay” replacing “sweet baby Jesus.”
This is one of those books that provokes me to read aloud, to listen to how carefully the author has shaped the language. And under that language is a grimly amusing story of violent gangs (think of the original Gangs of New York, but more the book than the film; or Beyond Thunderdome). It’s not the future of a Ridley Scott film. It’s post-technological and bestial, and society is small, hermetic, and run by bosses and families. Finally, you won’t really notice that this is a novel of the future most of the time. Just dark, vicious, and sharp.
• What did you recently finish reading?
A Hole in the Head by Jen Banbury. This is a book that Kelly Link recommended to me years back. I bought it on the spot and then, as happens so often, didn’t get to it. Some books are of that moment and you never do get back to them, but I’m glad I finally did read this. Banbury’s narrator, Jill, is terrific. She’s someone already broken, working as a part-time bookseller for a boss who’s never there.
The bookstore becomes the equivalent of Sam Spade’s office. Nobody who enters is what they seem, beginning with a dwarf who sells her a signed copy of a Jack London novel. From then on it’s a Maltese Falcon of books, filled with assassins, film directors, central casting failures, and gamblers. It’s hard-boiled, but in a way I’ve never encountered previously. And it’s fast. A rollicking read I recommend.
• What do you think you’ll read next?
By the time this blog post goes up, I’ll be steeped in my spring semester fiction workshop at Swarthmore College…which means I will have stopped reading anything by anyone who isn’t a student or who might have written a story I want to use for teaching. One story I know I’ll read (because I do every spring) is “MuleKillers” by Lydia Peelle. If you haven’t read this, you should. It’s a beautiful exercise in narrative, a “told” story about the narrator’s father and grandfather, the passing of an era, and soul-death by “progress.”
What about you? What are you reading, have you been reading, wanting to read next?