Think you’re too cool for love stories and romance? Think again:
(The Great Fire by Shirley Hazzard, Published in 2003 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
We hope you’re “great” Thanksgiving with more “eat Turkey” and less “eat Fire,” ha…
After the bombing of Hiroshima, Major Aldred Leith travels to Kure, Japan, during the occupation. He falls in love with the brilliant and dainty daughter (his girl-woman damsel) of the odious overseer of his barracks (you saw that coming). And so begins the familiar dance: Leith braves the determined opposition of her parents, endures an enforced separation from Helen, and suffers a rivalry for her hand from a dashing American, all before the predictable lovers’ reunion.
Ok, so you’re not reading this for the narrative, but in setting her novel within the structure of the archetype “romance,” Hazzard is able to focus you immediately on the complexity of her characters, and you’ll discover just how much there is to know about a character. Her writing is meant to make you work a little, and it’s worth it. She seamlessly weaves the personal story threads of The Great Fire within their gargantuan historical context, leaving you feeling swept up in something much larger than a simple love story.
—Charles Taylor, Salon
—The New Yorker
Forward to 45:20 for a reading from The Great Fire:
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A car crash. A dead girl. And the Kennedys: A fictionalized retelling of a Camelot scandal by an American literary icon
What begins as a starry-eyed chance encounter between 26-year-old Kelly Kelleher and The Senator quickly spirals into a nightmare: The Senator drunkenly crashes the car into the swamp and abandons Kelly to drown. As she suffocates alone, Kelly takes us on a psychotic autobiographical flashback of her life—her relationships, her fears, her hopes—while The Senator nonchalantly abandons her to her fate in the sinking car. It is a story told by a wide-eyed, eager young woman, but about a larger-than-life public figure who gets away with flippantly throwing away an innocent life. Black Water’s 160 short pages will chew you up and spit you out.
With a soft flick of her pen, Oates castigates two Republican presidents, chastises a Democratic dynasty, passes thinly-veiled judgment on a senatorial Goliath, and gives one “fictional” victim a timeless voice.
Joyce Carol Oates needs no introduction. One of America’s most respected contemporary writers, she published her first novel when she was 26-years-old and hasn’t stopped writing since. Oates has taught at Princeton University since 1978.
“Taut, powerfully imagined, and beautifully written, Black Water ranks with the best of … Joyce Carol Oates’s achievements. It can be read in a single afternoon … but it continues to haunt us.”
Happy reading and Happy Thanksgiving!
How many books have you and the President read in common? This Booklr Pick will make it at least one:
Published in 2004 by Farrar, Strauss and Giroux
GILEAD just might be one of the best contemporary novels to have slipped by you. And Marilynne Robinson just might be one of the most extraordinary contemporary authors that you’ve never heard of. You’d better amend this literary quandary, ASAP.
If you thought waiting nine years for Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Marriage Plot was excruciating, imagine how fans of Marilynne Robinson must have pined and pined … and pined. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson’s second novel, was published in 2004, nearly a quarter-century after her début novel Housekeeping. For those who hadn’t given up hope and all but forgotten about this extraordinary writer, Gilead proved entirely worth the wait and worthy of the Pulitzer.
In the year 1956, in the town of Gilead, Iowa, Reverend John Ames, a 76-year-old Congregational pastor, nears the end of his life and the conclusion of the autobiographical letter he is writing to his seven-year-old son. Although a fictional town, Gilead is based on the real town of Tabor, Iowa, a city that played an important role during the abolition movement as a key stop on the Underground Railroad. Through Ames’s memories, Robinson deftly weaves together American’s past and present, and individual human lives and the progress of humanity with prose that is at once humble and brave, and as spare and as spiritual as you may ever encounter.
Marilynne Summers Robinson is an American novelist and essayist who has written for Harper’s, The Paris Review, and The New York Times Book Review. She currently teaches at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
“[Robinson’s] is a mind … in which silence is itself a quality, [and] the space around words may be full of noises.” —James Wood, NYTimes
I mean, basically he’s saying she’s a freaking magician. And she is.
President Obama lists Gilead as one of his favorite books, in the company of Shakespeare’s Tragedies, Lincoln’s Collected Writings, and The Bible.
It’s serious, people.