Saturday, March 7, 2009

On My Stack: Nighttable That Is

Books are stacked up on my nighttable as always, and in mini-skyscrapers around the house, not to mention stored on our wall-to-wall bookshelves around and about.

The ones I am reading are usually by my bedside, where I can reach for them after the day's work is done or on those luxurious mornings when I can lounge in bed with a giant mug of fresh coffee and read my way into the day.

I just finished The Outlander, by Canadian author Gil Adamson, a debut novel by an extraordinary writer who also has a volume of stories and book of poetry out as well. The prose is gorgeous, rife with evocative images, yet always just right, fitting to the story. And what a story it is, an adventure. The book is about a young widow at the turn of the century who is on the run after murdering her husband. She is half-mad, wild, and poignant. We are entranced and worried about her as she is relentlessly pursued by her dead husband's two vengeful brothers and a pack of bloodhounds. I don't want to give anything away, but this novel has some of the most erotic, indelible, and powerful sex scenes I have ever read. And writers out there, you know, writing sex is a gift, a challenge. Adamson knows that we bring whomever we are into the bedroom, or in this case, the woods and forest. I am waiting and watching for Adamson's next.

I confess: I read junky mags to relax, a holdover from when my children were small and still watched The Lion King over and over or God help me, Barney,The Wiggles, or the late and beloved Mr. Rodgers. I could snuggle and cuddle with them and have my junky mags to flip through when the sight and sound of Barney sharing and caring was nearly emetic.

My husband Michael's escapist reading is thrillers, but they have to be well-written. This is how I happened to borrow the intriguingly titled Death of a Writer by Michael Collins from his stack.

Anyone who is amused or involved in the constant literary brawl that is going on out there, anyone who has been the victim or the object of writer's envy, will get a kick and a hoot out of this book. It is about author Robert Pendleton, who after his brilliant debut has not published anything "dazzling," and his smarmy nemesis fellow-novelist Allen Horowitz, whose latest autobiographical work has occupied the New York Times bestseller list for a year and has made a fortune. When their paths collide, death seems Pendelton's only option...but he botches his suicide attempt. While convalescing, one of his own early novels which he has hidden in the basement is discovered, and causes a storm of publicity. Pendleton may have his moment yet, unless he is accused of an unsolved murder. Fun stuff written in a muscular, cinematic style.

On my stack, you will also find Aussie Joan London's novel The Good Parents, Elizabeth Strout's linked story collection Olive Kitteridge, and Margot Livesey's latest novel The House on Fortunte Street. I love reading women writers, the best of them, and crave a woman's voice in fiction, which makes me feel I have a dear friend by my side whispering in my ear.

I am just into London's work and am enjoying the story and her limpid, lyrical prose, and will report back on the others in time, but I am well set for my end-of-winter reading.

Friends and fellow booklovers, please comment on what you are reading, I am always eager to hear about wonderful books.



Leo said...

Speaking of stacks of books to read, your blog has inspired me to count my unread volumes. I'm up to 11 now. Some of the volumes:

- The Horseman's Graves, Jacqueline Baker;
- Through Black Spruce, Joseph Boyden;
- Ten Days in the Hills, Jane Smiley;
- Searching for the Secret River, Kate Grenville;
- 2666, Roberto Bolano;
- Homecoming, Bernhard Schlink

I currently reading Without Warning, John Birmingham, the first volume of a trilogy on what would happen if the USA was wiped off the face of the earth by some mysterious energy wave. He's focussing not on what caused it, but how people react to such a disappearance. He's got multiple storylines and characters going at the same time - the General in charge of Guantanamo Navel Base (which survives); the Admiral at PACOM in Hawaii who is the senior US military leader left; a smuggler in the South Pacific; a city engineer in Seattle; an assassin in Paris, all bouncing off of each other on a timeline that starts on the first day for the first third of the book, the first week for the second, and the first month with the final third. It's not great literature, but it is fun to speculate on The End, whatever that is. When I started this, it was still -15 out there. Now, it's +7 so the need to escape to an alternate world is not so pressing.

What I wanna know is, what happens when you can download books into your reader, like music today? Will you still keep those volumes of paper surrounding you? Or will you gradually pulp them, storing the three versions of the same book that exist electronically on your home server for consultation at a later date?

Anonymous said...

Nice stack,girl!