Thursday, May 24, 2012

Reading Journal: Correction Road, by Glen Dresser (2007)

I shouldn't be surprised to read another great book from tiny Oberon Press, (of Ottawa); John Metcalf's still editing there, and, (though I wasn't a Pomerance fan), they publish only the finest. For his part, Glen Dresser has written a book that's interesting from the first page, telling as it does of a rat catcher in a small town on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border - from the perspective of the rat, by times. I really liked the semi-frequent returns to the rat, who would soliloquize about his omniscience and the scenes' impact on him, the lowly one we never think about. The human characters are small time and small town, and though the ones in their early 20s speak like they're older, the story is simple and affecting, with old friendships and troubled couples and family tensions and adulterous temptations at every turn. A book with a real rythym to it that's easy to get caught up in, and another excellent Canadian small-press find.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Reading Journal: The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers (1940)

One word to describe this novel? Atmosphere. McCullers's debut, written when she was just 23, is a beautiful stumble through a young woman's formative years in the racially-divided American south. The characters live and breathe, particularly those men Mick Kelly is interested in: working-class hothead Jake Blount and the mute, (Mr.) Singer. As far as a plot goes, it's hard to pin much down, but each chapter is another scene that demands your attention with its immediacy and draws you in, almost to the point that you forget the forest for each of these trees. Tennessee Williams called McCullers's the South's best prose writer; for my money, she's no William Faulkner, but I'm a big Grapes of Wrath and Alice Munro fan, and this book slots in nicely alongside those writers, sometimes using sentences as punchy as Hemingway's, too. What can I say that hasn't been said? Don't just take it from Oprah, it's a classic.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Reading Journal: Swimming in the Ocean, by Catherine Jenkins (2002)

Not the kind of novel I'd normally be drawn to - a woman on a Caribbean vacation sits on the beach and rhapso-analyzes past loves - but I'm very glad I met this author, and therefore, read the book. Switching between apostrophe - each chapter brings a new, past "you" - and textbook-like descriptions of marine life forms, the term one might use to describe the style is "heavy metaphor." Erudite postmodern read that frequently references songs, paintings and more, but one that's also a profluent history of the heart in a crackling present tense; a great small-press discovery (Insomniac).