Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Down to a Sunless Sea

Earlier this year I read an interesting book called How to Become a Famous Writer Before You're Dead by Ariel Gore. One of the topics covered was self-publishing so I was excited by a book sent to me to review that took that route. (I could very easily get way off topic now and start preaching about the wonderfulness of the DIY movement but I'll save that for another time.)

The book is a short story collection called Down to a Sunless Sea and was written by Mathias B. Freese. Nine of the fifteen stories in this slim volume have been published in literary journals so this book nicely straddles the two worlds of publishing. As well as being a writer Mathias B. Freese is a psychotherapist and it shows in many of these short stories. Freese is most interested in the inner workings of his characters and deftly handles examinations of their thoughts and reasonings. He is particularly gifted at inhabiting the minds of those who feel on the margins of society, such as the crippled narrator in "I'll Make It. I Think."

The strange and universal land of childhood is also richly explored in this collection, sometimes by narrators who are children, such as Herbie, the wannabe shoe shine boy desperately trying to please his father in the story "Herbie" or by adult narrators remembering incidents from their childhoods, as happens in "Alabaster" the story of a man recalling his meeting with a concentration camp survivor years previously. Freese understands the allure and mystery of childhood. As the narrator of the story "Echo" states: "In hindsight, which is how we live our lives, not how we make sense of them..."

In case you can't read the stickers on the book jacket in my photo, Down to a Sunless Sea was awarded an Editor's Choice Award from Allbook Reviews and was a finalist for the Indie Excellence Book Awards. Wow! Congratulations to Mathias. If he keeps this up he'll be a famous writer before he's dead! To learn more about Mathias B. Freese and his books visit:

First line of Down to a Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese: "While a young child growing up in Brighton Beach, Adam would go shopping with his mother on Brighten Beach Avenue."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Le Clezio in The New Yorker

Remember Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio? The guy that just won the Nobel? The New Yorker has published a short story of his in the October 27th issue. The haven't got it posted online or else I'd link you to it. To read this one, you're going to have to buy a copy.

Chick Literacy

Awhile back I contributed an essay to an anthology project which had the interesting premise to link books to personal memories. You know how sometimes a song can instantly pull you back in time? Well, this was the same idea except using books instead of songs. Good idea, right? And the point of this project was a worthy one - to raise awareness (and hopefully funds) for women's literacy. Unfortunately, the project never found a publisher. But the inventive and obviously undaunted editor contacted me recently to say the project has been reinvented as a blog. You can check out it out here. My essay isn't there yet but I'll let you know when it gets posted.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Shocking News

I was shocked to read in this morning's newspaper the British Library has spent 500,000 pounds to purchase a major archive from the estate of Ted Hughes. Not shocked because I don't think Ted Hughes is important and therefore worth the price, but shocked because I had forget he was dead!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

And The Booker Goes To...

Aravind Adiga has won the 2008 Man Booker Prize with his debut novel The White Tiger. I haven't read it myself but according to the judges "it shocked and entertained in equal measures." So there you go, now you know what sort of novel you need to write in order to win the Booker.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Prize Season

It is prize season in the book world. Recently Gil Adamson was awarded the in Canada First Novel Award. This is a book that has been on my radar since it was published last winter. I have only heard good things about it. It is definitely on my "I must read this book" list.

From Publishers WeeklyStarred Review. Set in 1903, Adamson's compelling debut tells the wintry tale of 19-year-old Mary Boulton (widowed by her own hand) and her frantic odyssey across Idaho and Montana. The details of Boulton's sad past—an unhappy marriage, a dead child, crippling depression—slowly emerge as she reluctantly ventures into the mountains, struggling to put distance between herself and her two vicious brothers-in-law, who track her like prey in retaliation for her killing of their kin. Boulton's journey and ultimate liberation—made all the more captivating by the delirium that runs in the recesses of her mind—speaks to the resilience of the female spirit in the early part of the last century. Lean prose, full-bodied characterization, memorable settings and scenes of hardship all lift this book above the pack. Already established as a writer of poetry (Ashland) and short stories (Help Me, Jacques Cousteau), Adamson also shines as novelist. (Apr.) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Friday, October 10, 2008

I Didn't Win the Nobel - Again

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio of France has been awarded this year's Nobel Prize for literature. Congratulations to him. I just did a quick search and it doesn't appear much of his work has been translated into English, a situation which will probably change now. I don't know where the last year has disappeared to. It feels like Doris Lessing was awarded the Nobel just a few months ago. At least it feels like that to me. Ms. Lessing might feel differently. I truly hope she accomplished more of the goals she set for herself a year ago than I did, since I vowed to finally read The Golden Notebook and haven't even cracked the binding yet. I'll get to it Doris, I swear I will.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Still Thinking

I'm still thinking about funny books. Life continues to be trying enough around here that I'm longing for comic relief, I guess. In my earlier post about humorous books I can't believe I forgot the Adrian Mole series by Sue Townsend. (Exhaustion and packing all your books away will do that to you.) I love the Adrian Mole books and think they are hilarious. I will happily buy them as long as Sue Townsend continues to write them. After reading a new one I always suffer from this fear that it will be the last installment. Seriously, I just want them to go on forever. Now I am beginning to worry the latest, Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction will be last. I have to change the topic before I start to hyperventilate or break out into hives.

I just found out about a novel I think may be very funny. Anybody else a fan of the movie Withnail and I? Well, the man who wrote the screenplay for that - his name is Bruce Robinson - has written a novel. It's called The Peculiar Memories of Thomas Penman and I want to read it.

Thanks to the people who left comments about their favourite funny books. All suggested titles have been added to my "I want to read this list." A list I would share with you except it is so long I fear it may crash the Internet.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Climbing Back on the Planet

I feel like I temporarily fell off the planet, but all I did was move. Moving is hard. Especially when everything that can go wrong, does, as happened with me. But that is a long boring story we'll skip. Suffice to say I'm back now and happy in my new home. Of course, everything is still packed away in boxes and I'm living in near chaos - but what else is new, eh?

Question: How many Ikea Billy bookcases can you fit in a Honda Civic?
Answer: Three. (In the interest of science and the readers of this blog we tried our best to cram in a fourth but all our attempts failed.)

Sooner or later every reader comes to the same realization: there will not be enough time to read all the books you want to read. After unpacking my books, even a mathematically challenged person like myself, could see there were more volumes than I could possibly read before I die, even if I sat down now and did nothing else but read for the rest of my days. And I've got this funny feeling I'm probably going to acquire more books in the next forty or so years. Isn't that sad? It almost seems unfair. If I could interview God (or whoever is running this odd little show called life) that is what I would like to ask. Why so many books and so little time? (As the tote bags, bookmarks and mugs say.) Someone once suggested to me that heaven will be what you want it to be (or was that a Nick Bantock book? I really need some sleep.) Meaning if swimming is your thing, heaven will be a giant pool. Or if reading is your thing, heaven will be an endless library. Isn't that a wonderful thought? I'll leave you with that dreamy image.