Friday, January 02, 2009
Fave Novels from 2008
My favourite novel last year?
Easy. 2666 by Roberto Bolano. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. Read this motherfucker.
My very favourite writer is William Burroughs. When I first read Naked Lunch I turned around and read Junkie. Then I went and looked for everything I could find written by him or about him. Then I had to see him in person. That scenario has occured for a dozen writers I love. When I love them, I go all the way. Bolano has had that effect on me. I have to read everything he's ever written. Sadly Bolano passed away, always too young, but he has left a body of work as exciting as Burroughs, Borge and Calvino.
Tree of Smoke is a psychedelic, violent, crazy and brilliant novel. If you like adventure, life and death themes, thoughtful writing well, hell, this is my second favourite book last year.
New York Times review
If you love dogs, you have to read The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. If you love a good story, same deal. Read this one. Most of the books I read have to do with animals. One of the things I look for when looking for novels is interspecies relationships: they aren't so easy to find since Conrad's or London's time. This novel has it all!
Gilead was a re-read for a bookclub...but I enjoyed it quite a bit for the second time. It starts slow and takes a while to slow down to the speed of the narrator. Over all it is a book of reverie and reflection...and it also had me laugh out loud. There is also a little bit of a mystery. Charming and spiritual. THIS is what a Christian looks like goddamn it.
This is an important thing, which I have told many people, and which my father told me, and which his father told him. When you encounter another person, when you have dealings with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you. So you must think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation? If you confront insult or antagonism, your first impulse will be to respond in kind. But if you think, as it were, This is an emissary sent from the Lord, and some benefit is intended for me, first of all the occasion to demonstrate my faithfulness, the chance to show that I do in some small small degree participate in the grace that saved me, you are free to act by your own lights. You are freed at the same time of the impulse to hate or resent that person. He would probably laugh at the thought that the Lord sent him to you for your benefit (and his), but that is the perfection of the disguise, his own ignorance of it.
I am reminded of this precious instruction by my own great failure to live up to it recently. Calvin says somewhere that each of us is an actor on a stage and God is the audience. That metaphor has always interested me, because it makes us artists of our behaviour, and the reaction of God to us might be thought of as aesthetic rather than morally judgmental in the ordinary sense...
Much more prayer is called for, clearly, but first I will take a nap. (page 124, Gilead)