I don’t know… here and there… readin’ this & that… I’ve been busy, get offa my back. I thought I’d throw this post out there just to let you know that the Catapult is alive and well, despite being neglectful of you, dear reader. The roundup, pour vous:
In the day job I’m in the midst of the buying season for the Summer books which keeps me running ragged, leaving very little bloggin’ time. (And I’m headed out to Kansas City, weather permitting, for the annual gathering of the book tribe, ABA’s Winter Institute at the end of this week.) BUT I have seen a lot of truly awesome books looming on the horizon, including this little pile – all four of which I promise to write longer, more insightful posts on soon:
The Son by Philipp Meyer – an astounding historical epic of the American West, narrated by several generations of a Texas oil family, from the author of American Rust (which, btw, I was reading on the side during the 117 Days.) Patriarch Eli “The Colonel” McCullough is one you seriously can’t tear your eyes from. His tale comes down from the lofty view of a 100-year old man looking back at his youth as a captive of a tribe of Comanche, right through the centuries, past the Civil War to his years of immense wealth in Depression-era America. Just think about that lifetime: Eli’s perspective is staggering and his voice has you locked in for the duration. The best part is the evolution – or devolution – of the three main narrators, over the course of the novel. All is not as it seems at first glance and initial impressions are most likely wrong – this is no flat, pulpy genre novel. Think more like if Cormac McCarthy punched Lonesome Dove in the face. As of right now, this is firmly at the top for the Catapult Notable list for 2013. And it’s only February.
The Tenth of December by George Saunders – you’ve no doubt heard all about George by now, he being a literati darling these days, after wallowing in indie store darkness for decades. I know that everyone says this, but this collection is every bit as amazing as they all say it is. Honest. I’m dying to post my thoughts on each of these stories, but Scott has my copy of the book, pretending to read it.
The Whispering Muse by Sjón – this is one of three newly translated novels on the way from FSG this spring, written by an Icelandic poet/songwriter/novelist. In Muse, half the story is told by Caeneus, formerly a sailor on the Argo – of “Jason and the Argonauts” fame – now, inexplicably, just a second mate on a boat in Norway in 1949. A weird, dreamy, magical, mythical little book that was unlike anything I’ve read in quite a while. In a good way.
A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra – certainly the current runner-up for the top spot on this year’s Catapult Notable list. Did I mention that it’s only February? This debut – coming in May from RH’s Hogarth Press – echoes The Tiger’s Wife in many ways, but might actually be a better book. Scandal! A lyrical, vivid tale of wartorn Chechnya – which I admittedly knew very little about going in – that shows you how much our lives can be affected by both circumstance and coincidence. It’s a heartbreaker. More on that later.
Return to Oakpine by Ron Carlson – Ron is a Catapult favorite, to be sure, and although this isn’t my number one pick of his novels, I was more than happy to fall back into his lines of prose again. A lot like 2007’s Five Skies, Oakpine is – on the surface – a story about the bonds between men who hate to admit that they have feelings for each other. At first I was a little lukewarm on it – these guys return to their hometown in Wyoming, 30 years after high school, one of them’s dying, maybe we’ll get the band back together. But oh-ho-ho, friend…
The afternoon winter wind was slow and ponderous and unrelenting and ultimately called fierce, though it was nothing except the icy air moving along the frozen plates of the world, and the snow had crusted and blown into waves against the fences along Berry Street in Oakpine, Wyoming. The day was closed.
I’m trying to lure Ron down to San Diego this summer for an event (he’s the head of the writing program at UC Irvine) so, stay tuned for that one as well.
I’m also halfway through Kristopher Jansma’s forthcoming The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards (Viking, March 2013) that I’m really digging. (Unreliable narrator.) And I have a galley of Colum McCann’s Transatlantic, coming in June, that’s burning a whole through my coffee table right now. More later. Carry on.