Here are books we like. Check them out if you are looking for a good read, are curious what we, the editors of PMjA, find interesting, or are woefully lacking in any direction beyond what we say. These are made available by the fine folks at Amazon.com.
: Lethem is great because he expertly links disparate artistic elements at their single connecting point, like a mash-up of Al Green and 14th Century monastic music promulgated from the fact that both are in 4/4 D-minor. Gun, with Occasional Music
does this for the noir detective story, literary fiction and sci-fi by threading each through the others at the only place the holes match up: Alienation. If you need a place to start with Lethem, then start with Gun, with Occasional Music
; if you need a place to go from there, it's either Motherless Brooklyn
(more literary noir) or Girl in Landscape
(sci-fi cowboy lit inspired by Ford's The Searchers
the Giant Squid: Margerine At-the-Wood here provides a fine roadmap for the future in genetically modified foodstuffs for humans and beyond. Is it not the foul but undeniable Truth of the Deep that the eater must always eventually succomb to being the eaten? It is At-the-Wood, alone among grunthcimps in her Canadian wisdom, who sees this future writ upon the face of the Deep. Soylent Green may be people, but Chicken Nubbinstm are, in their iteratiosn of genetically engineered refinement, nothing at all.
: Maybe a novel, maybe a memoir, maybe just a set of short stories wrapped together in a single binding, The Things They Carried
first and foremost communicates honestly and powerfully about war and courage and the quagmire. Secondly, as an artifact unto itself, this book demonstrates the layering where each of these forms (the novel, the anthology, the memoir) becomes the other.
"A true war story is never moral. It does not instruct, nor encourage virtue, nor suggest models of proper human behavior, nor restrain men from doing the things men have always done. If a story seems moral, do not believe it. . . . As a first rule of thumb, therefore, you can tell a true war story by its absolute and uncompromising allegiance to obscenity and evil."
the Giant Squid: Stephenson's prose is dense and frenetic, his plots rational and logically complete, and the narrative itself driven forward with the old-fashioned momentum of incident and action that is the hallmark of the traditional storysmith, and much ignored (at their peril) by many a modern Ivory Towered Literatus (David the Foster Wallace, I am looking at you!.)
Dave: I was in Venezuela for a while, back in college, and this was one of two English books I had with me. I read it at least a half dozen times in a row. DFW is really more an essayist than a writer of fiction (despite the fact that most of his output is fiction), and A Supposedly Fun Thing . . . is a manual-by-example on essay writing. Read it. Read it again. Read it again. Become the next Mark Twain.
Fritz: This book does not fit with the rest of these books. I don't know why I love this book so much. It is either a Post-Post-Modern evolution in my own aesthetic, or some sort of atavism of my heart. "This morning a splendid dawn passed over our house on its way to Kansas. This morning Kansas rolled out of its sleep into a sunlight grandly announced, proclaimed throughout heaven---one more of the very finite number of days that this old prairie has been called Kansas, or Iowa. But it has all been one day, that first day. Light is constant, we just turn over in it. So every day is in fact the selfsame evening and morning." (Robinson, 209-210)
: This book fits with the rest of these. This book is male and modern and ironic. It has a hard edge, and it laughs at you. If any American book of the last thirty years were to win the Nobel Prize for Literature, it should be this book.
But the real irony of this book is that I don't think I was capable of loving it until I read Gilead. And vice versa with Gilead.
Fritz: This book gets better every time I read it. I know Dave loves the Heaney translation because it preserves the poetry of the original (and I can say, having read The Beowulf in the original Anglo-Saxon, and having even translated some of it, I don't think any other poetic translation is as good as the Heaney) but really that preservation is by its nature only partial. I feel, as an amateur Anglo-Saxonist and a (semi-)Professional writer, that this prose translation better captures the radical nature of the original than any modern poetic translation could. It's a very literal translation, complete with all of the aggressively oblique apositional structure. Poetic translations give the translator too much license to round out the sense of things. This is a ravaged poem. It is meant to be raw and incomplete. It is about what is lost across the great expanse of history. It is about orphaned survivors of a long lost age. This translation preserves that fragmentary and abrupt quality.