Thursday, October 19, 2006

PAINT IT BLACK by Janet Fitch (2006)

Fitch's new novel opens with a tribute to lyrics by the Rolling Stones that include "everything that's red, paint it black," a sentiment that well suits Josie Tyrell, the protagonist. Josie's boyfriend Michael, a Harvard dropout, is an artist unsure of the depth of his talents. In spite of the love that surrounds him, Michael drives to the edge of LA and checks in to a seedy motel as Oscar Wilde and puts a gun in his mouth.

Following Michael's suicide the grief that emerges for Josie and for Michael's Mom, a world-famous concert pianist, makes them fast enemies and even stranger friends.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

YOU MUST SET FORTH AT DAWN by Wole Soyinka (2006)

Soyinka's memoir of his involvement throughout the early years of Nigeria's independence reads more like an intellectual tract than reminiscences. This accomplished poet, playwright and university professor--and the first African to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature--is frank about his many affairs de coeur and about his treatment while imprisoned for speaking out during the Biafran war that consumed Nigeria.

Monday, October 09, 2006

A LONG WAY DOWN by Nick Hornby

Written as four convincing first-person narratives, in the style of Faulkner's THE SOUND AND THE FURY, Hornby's most recent novel chronicles the lives of four strangers who meet at "Topper's House" in London on New Year's Eve. Each is convinced that s/he will put an end to their miserable existence to ring in the new year.

Jess is a teenaged girl who is lost to herself mostly because of her older sister's disappearance/death. JJ is a wannabe rockstar who broke up with his girlfriend and canned his band. Martin is a middle-aged Dad and former tv host who recently completed a jail term for having been involved with a fifteen-year-old girl. Maureen is a middle-aged woman who is weighed down by the care of her adult son who is confined to a wheelchair and diapers.

A less likely group of folks you won't have met; however, there is something absolutely appealing about each one of these characters as they look mortality in the eye and bite their thumbs at it. A topic that seems dreary and depressing will have you cheering by the time Hornby is finished.

Sunday, October 01, 2006


I now understand why I've found Ian Rankin's crime writing to be so literary--he spent a former life as a graduate student of English Literature at Edinburgh University where he wrote his Ph.D. thesis on the novels of Muriel Spark.

In this non-fiction book of ramblings and reminiscences and gorgeous--albeit moody-- photographs, Rankin explains his idea of Scotland and how the country is as much a character as Detective John Rebus in all of his novels.

It is a charming and personal book that offers a guided tour along the streets of Edinburgh as well as through Rankin's mind.


Veteran Louisiana Detective Dave Robicheaux finds himself in New Orleans, out of district, investigating the brutal beating of his friend Father Dolan, a controversial RC priest. However, another crime closer to home, the deaths of three teenaged girls in a car crash, leads to a series of revenge killings. Putting his own safety on the line, Robicheaux clearly understands the complicated nature of grief as he seeks to balance the scales of justice.