In addition to the online excerpt of Chris Boucher’s generous review of Cut Through the Bone in this month’s Believer Magazine (which you can read here) I’m happy to also share this from Chris: “Whether they win or lose their battles, many of Rohan’s characters share Matt and Joyce’s quiet, impossible hunger and the sadness that accompanies it. Rohan never looks past that sadness: she is mindful of her characters’ plights, her prose guided by a careful, focused empathy. And as to the question of how, finally, one prevails–lives with such space, or bridges the gap between the real and the imagined–she gives us an answer. … Which is to say: fake it till you make it.” Amen, Chris.
My deep thanks to Daniel Levin Becker, the Believer’s big-hearted Book Review editor and to Christopher Boucher, author of the novel How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive (Melville House, 2011) for his original and insightful review.
Also in January’s Believer Magazine, an excellent essay titled “Haterade” by Meghan Daum. Daum has been an opinion columnist at The Los Angeles Times since 2005. The essay rightly condemns the internet’s vitriolic comment culture: “Ugly commentary just doesn’t litter the internet, it infects it. … Perhaps worst of all, it gives the impression that the opinions expressed in those fights are not just the ravings of a few local idiots but the ‘voice of the people.’ Spend enough time in the company of that voice and the world will begin to look like a very bleak place indeed.” Yes, too many see ‘Comments’ and feel invited, entitled, to spew hate. The art of crafted, controlled rebuttal and criticism is on the endangered list.
Fascinating interview too from Blake Butler with Denis Wood, an author and mapmaker subverting the cartographic dogma with his insistence that a map is not factual but subjective, personal, and political. Wood takes issue with the idea that maps name, claim and say what things really are: “There’s a huge arrogance that’s built into the map, that ‘we can name and claim.'”
I loved this from Wood: “What I was a kid I read the Walt Disney’s story “Our Friend the Atom.” It had an image of Leonardo da Vinci breathing and having so many atoms of oxygen pass through his body in his lifetime, and these things are exhaled and they get caught up in the atmosphere, and the stochastics of themodynamics means that they get spread all over the place. So every time you inhale, you inhale two hundred atoms that were part of Leonardo da Vinci’s body. … The whole idea that ‘I’m me’ is preposterous.” That about sums up my growing religion: Each of us is everybody.
Suffice to say, after reading this interview, I will never look on a map or the atlas in the same way again.
Moving schema, too, on Top 8 Seriously Anguished Soul Singers: Little Johnny Taylor; James Carr; James Carroll Booker III; Little Willie John; O.V. Wright; Ted Hawkins; Jimmy Ruffin; and Darrell Banks.
I’m sorry to say I’d never heard of a single one of these 8 African-American soul singers all of who lived crushing lives and died ridiculously young (with the exception of Jimmy Ruffin). I felt so touched by these bite-size stories of the rise and fall of these artists I’ve set a goal to buy each of their music and listen as I write. Will likely kill, though, my hopes of turning into a humorist.
Nick Hornby’s monthly column “Stuff I’ve Been Reading” included a glowing review of Kevin Wilson’s The Family Fang, a novel I very much look forward to reading: “The Family Fang is pretty much the kind of novel you might dream of finding during an aimless twenty minutes in a bookstore: it’s ambitious, it’s funny, it takes its characters seriously, and it has soul–here defined as that beautiful ache fiction can bring on when it wants the best for us all while simultaneously accepting that most of time, even good enough isn’t possible.”
Okay, I admit that I just closed my eyes and imagined for the briefest, sweetest seconds that Nick Hornby wrote that about Cut Through the Bone AND Hard to Say, because I’m greedy like that. Congratulations, Kevin Wilson.
There’s so much goodness is this issue, I’m still working my way through. I felt sufficiently seduced already, though, to fork out for an annual subscription. Suspect this won’t be the last you’ll read about the Believer from me (you are still reading, aren’t you).
I have an extra copy of the issue if anyone would like it (because again I’m greedy like that). Just send your addy via my contact page or my regular email if you have it.