This installment: the aftermath of a tragedy in Poland (f); macabre short stories (f); surrealism and adventure–in Philadelphia (f); a trip to the heartland with a bi-racial son (nf); and a brilliant, funny retelling of Greek myths (nf).
Editor’s Note: Much of our print collection is now available for holds again. The titles and links below will direct you to print when available, with special notes made of digital ebook and eAudiobook availability.
The Unmade World by Steve Yarbrough
Richard, married to a Pole, loses her and their 15-year old daughter in a terrible accident; a couple of inept thieves fleeing the scene of the crime crash into their car. The two are never caught for that offense, though one ends up in prison on an unrelated charge. We’re privy to the subsequent lives of the characters through the decades as they wrestle with the trauma that upended their worlds. Richard, a journalist, returns to America, ends up pursuing a complex crime, but eventually bows out. These are nuanced portraits—everyone has failings and good qualities. I especially appreciated the ending and exposure to Polish politics and culture.
The Doll’s Alphabet by Camilla Grudova
Very weird short stories by a Canadian author who often seems to be channeling Beckett, Kafka, Gorey, and the Brothers Grimm (some of my absolute favorites). Malevolent sewing machines, very peculiar relationships between the sexes, amazing collections of junk, gross appearances and habits, and more. Their daring sometimes took my breath away but also periodically overwhelmed me with sensational material. Better to prepare yourself for exposure to shocking sensory detail and read them in small doses.
The Readymade Thief by Augustus Rose
Lee never fit in. She’s tough, small, almost invisible. She runs away from home, partly to get away from her more-spiritual-than-thou stepfather, and gets into a world of trouble. She escapes from juvie and ends up in a very strange place which runs raves and turns young people zombie-like. She connects with Tomi and they explore many derelict buildings and end up living on the lam. But there’s another dimension: the surrealist artist Marcel DuChamp who explored very advanced conjectures, including string theory. Somehow Lee holds the key a weird cabal has been searching for, and they’re after her relentlessly. The Dark Web gets into it too. All pretty far out (oh come on, I found myself muttering when the scenes got hard to believe) but I enjoyed it enough to keep reading. Philadelphia setting.
Once More to the Rodeo by Calvin Hennick
The author sets off with his 5-year-old son Nile from Boston to Iowa where he grew up. Nile’s wife is from Haiti. This goal: fun, fun, fun with dad to make sweet recollections and also connect with his (actually quite troubled) past. Niles is bright, sensitive, and has frequent meltdowns. The fun often goes awry—too loud, too scary, Dad often resorts to bribes with food and toys. When they get to the heartland, there’s Alice who brought Cal up, a very sad, abrasive individual. As the author puts it, we rely on memories to make meaning of our lives. What Nile will glean down the road from this experience is anyone’s guess, but his father certainly tried hard with the best of intentions. Candid, painful at times, and many reflections on racism, fatherhood and what it means to be a man.
Mythos by Stephen Fry
Subtitled The Greek Mythology Reexamined. Turning this wild, witty British comedian loose on ancient, iconic material brings it even more vividly to life. The Greeks knew a lot about the vagaries of human nature and their depiction of gods reflects this brilliantly. It’s remarkably comprehensive and well-researched, with fine-art illustrations and surprising footnotes. (As in Ovid’s names of many hounds in one myth: Fry suggests you can use them for online passwords.) His ear for dialogue enlivens the stories, sometimes anachronistically but so much fun. A tour de force!
See you next week.