And yet another interlude before I get to the long, yet relatively simple recipe.
I have to report on a fine read recommended by Eva--Clara Callan by Richard B. Wright. I picked up the book from the library on Friday evening and finished it Saturday evening. I'm not recommending it merely because it is speedy (though the format--letters and journal entries--does make for quick reading) but because it was an excellent read and it has joined the ranks of my recommended books.
It started off with a set-up I thought I knew, stable older sister who stays in the small town in Ontario, wilder younger sister who seeks her fortune in NYC, but it managed to surprise and delight and show how the "safer" choice can sometimes be the much riskier one. The three main character's voices were so clear and distinct and the author didn't play favorites--despite the initial indications that the younger sister is going to be flighty and annoying, he manages to keep her spirit intact and still show her depth of character and feeling. And the older sister has a wry sarcasm that alleviates any preachyness.
Normally I wouldn't have had the opportunity to start and finish a book in 24 hours, butSaturday I had a strange headache--not quite a migraine but something that rendered me pretty damn non-functional. I'm still not quite sure what the hell it was or why it descended like a cloud, but after fighting it in the morning I gave in and retreated to a darkened bedroom (and was relieved and grateful that Brian was free to manage the rugrats). Reading the book was one thing I could do (no knitting, no cooking, and no writing) so read it I did.
I also recently finished Madeline is Sleeping, another of the National Book Award finalists from last year. Blech. Magical realism with no point. Showy and gimmicky. I also made a stab at the last NBA finalist, Florida by Christine Schutt and found it so unpleasant that I gave up after 50 pages. So now that I have read four and attempted to get into the fifth of the finalists and only could stand one of the books, (Joan Silber's Ideas of Heaven which I loved), I'm not sure what to make of Rick Moody (the head judge that year) and his criteria for good fiction. I am relieved to know that it wasn't simple misogyny that inspired critic's objections to the chosen authors, though there was way too much implied sexism for me to feel comfortable saying that I agree wholeheartedly with the critiques many major critics wrote.
On a much more positive note, an author I admire, David Maine, just published his second novel, Fallen. I loved his first book, The Preservationist, which is a retelling of Noah and the flood--gritty and funny in the telling but surprisingly beautiful in the end. His new book stays with biblical source and focuses on Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel. It also employs a reverse narrative which I love, but which I think is incredibly difficult to pull off. Charles Baxter's First Light is an example of the narrative moving back in time where it really works. Janet Maslin in the NYTimes thought that it worked in Fallen too--she also called the book "quirky" and "delectable" which bodes very well indeed.