Friday, December 14, 2007

Best Books of 2007: Fiction

A Miracle of Catfish by Larry Brown (Algonquin Books) 335 pages
For me, there was no doubt that Larry Brown’s final, unfinished novel is the one that still burns bright. Brown died of a heart attack the day before Thanksgiving in 2004 and this year his long-time publisher delivered the author’s Southern-fried magnum opus. Set in rural Mississippi, A Miracle of Catfish sprawls across a year in the life of about a dozen characters, including 72-year-old Cortez Sharp who digs a pond and fills it with catfish, a down-on-his-luck fellow named Tommy who runs a fish-stocking business and who secretly slips a giant catfish into Cortez’s pond, eight-year-old Jimmy who lives down the road from Cortez and whose sole happiness in life is riding his new go-kart, and Jimmy’s daddy who knows he’s “nothing but a fuckup, would never be anything but a fuckup, and never had been anything but that.” Eventually, these lives -- including Ursula, the Moby Dick of catfish -- intersect in ways great and small. Brown expertly chronicles blue collar life and makes us feel the rural depression, both economic and mental. No matter what color our own collars, we can relate to characters like Jimmy’s Daddy who laments, “He’s going to have to fix his life somehow because it’s not working the way it is. But what’s he going to do? What’s the first move he’s going to make? What's he going to do today that’s going to be different from yesterday?” Brown’s world is one where you can pull up to a convenience store and find “a toddler standing in dirty underpants on the gravel out by the gas pumps eating cigarette butts.” It’s a place where a washed-up, burnt-out man lives in a “grassless mobile home that was no longer mobile, merely home” and eats “lighter-fluid-flavored hamburgers” washed down with a six-pack. It’s been nearly nine months since I read A Miracle of Catfish, but I can still remember dozens of scenes like they were part of a vivid movie I watched last night. Larry Brown may be gone, but he will never be forgotten. -- David Abrams

The Best American Comics 2007 edited by Chris Ware and Anne Elizabeth Moore (Houghton Mifflin) 368 pages
There are times when I get jaded. Times when I think so much that’s great has been done and even celebrated, how can it ever be competed with? Topped? I guess that’s what annual anthologies are about. Reminding us that there’s new and exciting stuff coming up from sources we hadn’t anticipated, and collecting it between two covers so we can take it out and enjoy it and share whenever the mood strikes. The Best American Comics 2007 is a classic example of that. If you have any affection at all for this artform, this anthology can not help but excite you. Edited by the great white hope of comics, Chris Ware, who does a credible job of setting a mandate for the book: “Any good annual anthology should have a sort of desert island condensation to it; even if every single comic produced between August 2005 and August 2006 suddenly and mysteriously vaporized, this book should still at least hint at what was happening during those months.” I don’t have the space to run down the contents of the book, but let it be said it meets Ware’s goal admirably. There’s enough of a selection here -- broad and deep -- to make both comic and graphic novel lovers’ heads swim. One can only conclude that, for comics, the year documented was a very good one, indeed. -- Lincoln Cho

Beyond the Blue by Andrea MacPherson (Random House Canada) 346 pages
It is Dundee, Scotland in 1918 and the War and the industrial revolution have taken an awful toll. Dundee has become a society of mostly women: making their way alone in a world that is ugly and difficult, where the best a woman can hope is that her daughter might not follow her into the factories; that she might dream of a better life. For most it is a hope that will fail. In Beyond the Blue, her fourth book and her second novel, Andrea MacPherson captures the time and place beautifully. MacPherson shepherds her careful creations through the eventful times in which they live. All the while, she pushes them through the hopelessness and, in a way -- and in each character’s own way -- finally past it. At the end of Beyond the Blue and upon reflection, one discovers that MacPherson’s lyrical metaphors have followed us home. Though we thought all along that the journey she was guiding us on was a historical one, after a while one sees that aspects of this journey aren’t so very different from our own. -- Linda L. Richards

Blaze by Richard Bachman, introduction by Stephen King (Scribner) 304 pages
Finally, in 2007 we got to read Stephen King’s 1973 novel, Blaze, which he released under his pen-name “Richard Bachman.” Blaze is really a novella written in the same haunting style as the work from King’s 1982 collection, Different Seasons, which featured “The Breathing Method,” “Apt Pupil,” “The Body” and “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption.” In fact, Shawshank Penitentiary wins a few mentions in this very moving and engaging story. I consider the four stories in Different Seasons to be among this author’s best, and Blaze easily matches the quality of those works. King’s introduction to this book is very interesting, since he talks about it in the context of his entire oeuvre. He explains how much he enjoyed penning The Colorado Kid (2005) for Hard Case Crime, but thought that Blaze was more of a melodrama and therefore not suited to that publishing house, so he decided to release it as a Bachman book, after updating it. The story is a heart-wrenching melodrama about the misadventures of Claiborne Blaisdell Jr., aka “Blaze,” a youngster brought up by an alcoholic and abusive father. As a boy, Blaze is harmed in a dreadful incident that causes brain damage and leaves him slow-witted. Blaze, however, is a big lad -- a giant if you will, but a gentle giant perplexed by the terrible things that haunt our world and are cruelly inflicted upon him. We see Blaze sent to an orphanage, where he is mistreated but survives by his good nature, and how he befriends a more intelligent but weaker boy, John Cheltzman. Together they survive the rigors of the orphanage by helping each other out. In terms of structure and theme, Blaze shares a chord or two with “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” including how friendship and hope can carry you through the cruelty that life throws up. However, you can see that this new tale will end in tragedy, after the naïve Blaze befriends a criminal, who works out the perfect scam: the kidnapping of a baby from a wealthy Maine family. The gentle giant Blaze hasn’t the intelligence to pull off this scam, and his love for the child will be his undoing. For me, this story is a gem and I am so glad that King found it and issued it at last, because for the few hours it took to unravel, I sat mesmerized. -- Ali Karim

Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo (Knopf) 544 pages
The author of Mohawk and the Pulitzer-winning Empire Falls, Russo is a master of the small-town novel, a sympathetic observer of the limited vision but big hearts that so often predominate in such environments. Here he gives us the Lynches, a family marked by their contrasts and enriched by the people they come to love and lose over the period of two generations. Russo’s tale unfolds mostly around Louis C. -- or “Lucy” -- Lynch, the 60-year-old heir to a convenience-store empire who, with his wife, is soon headed to Italy to visit a childhood friend, and reliving in the course of it all the traumas that shaped him as much as they did the upstate New York town beyond which he’s never grown. Russo finds humor and humanity in places that other writers wouldn’t even bother to look. He’s an extraordinary talent, even though he favors using certain recognizable sorts of characters in every book. Bridge of Sighs is for readers willing to abandon themselves to expert storytelling, driven equally by character and plot and meandering somewhat in the way of a country creek. As ever, Russo is a writer who makes other writers jealous. -- J. Kingston Pierce

The Dark River by John Twelve Hawks (Doubleday) 384 pages
Speculation over the identity of John Twelve Hawks, shadowy author of the projected Fourth Realm Trilogy, dominated the reception of the first book in this series (2005’s The Traveler) and seems to have led reviewers to cold-shoulder its sequel, The Dark River. That’s a damn shame, because these books are some of the best futurist fiction around. Anyone who follows the cyber-fiction of authors such William Gibson, Neil Stephenson and Cory Doctorow, will be intrigued by Hawks’ trilogy. It’s the story of Gabriel Corrigan, who discovers as an adult that he is descended from a race of psychically gifted humans called Travelers. In the first book of the series, Gabriel and his brother Michael are trying to avoid detection by a Big Brother-like corporation (The Brethren) that gathers data from the growing variety of technology sources used to track individuals. The group is sinisterly interested in the Corrigans’ abilities, hoping to use their talents to further contacts The Brethren have made with a civilization in another realm. Gabriel and Michael discover that a cadre of protectors called Harlequins exists to protect Travelers. At the close of the first book, Gabriel, assisted by his Harlequin guardian Maya, has connected with a Pathfinder -- a woman who can teach Gabriel how to use his psychic talents to contact beings on other worlds. Michael, always skeptical of their chances and not entirely convinced that he and Gabriel are truly in danger, is captured by The Brethren. They persuade him to take a drug they’ve developed that supposedly bypasses the need for a Pathfinder. Captured by The Brethren, then liberated by Maya, Gabriel escapes to a hideout in America's remote desert Southwest. Picking up where that first adventure left off, The Dark River follows Gabriel and Maya from the Southwest (where the commune that sheltered them has been destroyed), across the country to New York and from there to Europe. Meanwhile, brother Michael is discovering more about the talent he had once doubted, and falling further under the control of The Brethren. A rather too predictable romantic relationship evolves between Gabriel and Maya (forbidden, of course, under the laws that govern Travelers and Harlequins). The Dark River adds to the trilogy two memorable female characters. One is the formidable Harlequin Mother Blessing, who packs, along with her sword, “a laptop, bolt cutters, lock picks and a small canister of liquid nitrogen for disabling infrared motion detectors.” The other is The Brethren board member Mrs. Brewster, who blandly presides over the murder of one of her board colleagues at dinner, murmuring as he crashes onto the table, “How very sad.” While The Dark River does little more than fill in the sweeping structures set forth in the first book of this trilogy, it does so at a breathless pace and with tantalizing detail. In other words, it does its job as the second book of a trilogy by making you want to read that third and final novel as soon as possible. -- Karen G. Anderson

The End of the Alphabet by CS Richardson (Doubleday)
This little tale of a special love is one of those tearjerkers, but so well done that you'll want to lend it to all your friends and buy it for those nearest you. My little copy has been out six times, and each time has been returned definitely more tear-stained than when it left. I’ve had frantic friends trying to buy it in London, England and in Durban, South Africa. You can read it in an evening, and probably will. It gets away with murder, and I’m still not sure how the author does that. He writes simply about a clichéd situation; why is it so beautiful and moving? “...I was intrigued by other nuances,” Richardson writes on the Random House Web site, “of life, of love, and how far each would go, indeed could go, to sustain the other.” His literary exploration of this makes for an emotive yet rational, elegant yet earthy, diminutive classic, proving that the best things can indeed come in small packages. -- Cherie Thiessen

Effigy by Alissa York (Random House Canada) 448 pages
was born when author York read a newspaper article about the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and one of their infamous Canadian communities in Bountiful, British Columbia. “I was shocked to read that the ‘plural wives’ of Bountiful are often little more than children when they are given in marriage,” she recently explained in an interview. There are all the right blends in this Giller-nominated historical novel. Complicated and fascinating characters who are totally credible, meticulous research and editing of details to both enlighten and to entertain the reader, a plot divided equally into riveting strands which finally get woven together into a conclusion that’s both shocking yet credible, and we have writing that is elegant and artful. Murder, slaughter, ghosts, adultery, revenge, the gold rush, a circus and lots of secrets, Effigy has ‘em. People talk about “light reads” and “escapist books” sometimes, claiming that they just don’t have the energy or attention span for “literature.” York proves that a work of art can be both. -- Cherie Thiessen

Finn: A Novel by Jon Clinch (Random House) 304 pages
Spinning off from Mark Twain’s 1884 classic, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Clinch turns his focus on Huck’s dissolute father, “Pap,” in this truly extraordinary debut novel. Bigoted, violent, cast out from society and thoroughly unapologetic for anything and everything he’s done, the often-heedless Pap must deal here with a fondness for moonshine, a purloined slave of a mistress, a condemnatory progenitor of his own, and the bloated corpse of an African-American woman, murdered and found floating down the broad Mississippi River. That unidentified body begins Finn and is the thread with which Clinch knits together his complex back story to Huckleberry Finn. Don’t be concerned that this is a rewriting of Twain’s book; in fact, it intersects that previous masterpiece at only one obvious point I recognize, and otherwise exists independently and energetically from it, drawing its strength from its author’s own fertile imagination, not merely from the curiosity readers might have about its behind-the-scenes drama. True, this dark yarn isn’t Twain, but then what else is? -- J. Kingston Pierce

Five Skies by Ron Carlson (Viking) 244 pages
Ron Carlson’s novel about three men building a motorcycle stunt ramp in Idaho is quiet -- you can practically hear the wind whistling through the pages. In that silence, you will find absolute heartbreak as the story builds to at least one scene that will knock you flat on your back. This is Carlson’s first novel in 30 years and fans of his short stories might find themselves having to adjust their patience to slow down for the pace of this book. On the surface, very little happens in these 256 pages: three men work on a summer construction project, a large wooden ramp at the lip of a canyon, built for a motorcycle stuntwoman who plans to jump the canyon, a la Evel Knievel. The men carefully clear brush from the site, dig post-holes, hammer sheets of lumber together and smooth asphalt for the runway. There are whole pages devoted to shopping for nails, bolts, and boards. Somehow, Carlson manages to turn this simple blueprint of labor into a cunningly crafted portrait of three men searching for ways to span the emotional chasms which have, in various ways, isolated them from the rest of society. They are men at work on their souls and it’s a testament to Carlson’s talent that he’s able to make this inner journey as exciting to watch as any high-octane testosterone action movie. -- David Abrams

Graphic Witness: Four Wordless Graphic Novels edited by George A. Walker (Firefly Books) 423 pages
Graphic Witness is at once seminal and historic, a graphic witness, as the title indicates, of the very roots of the graphic novel. Here we have four important stories told in woodcut and without words, collected for us by George A. Walker, himself an award-winning engraver, book designer as well as an author, teacher and illustrator. The messages of the four artists and storytellers represented here are sometimes uneasy. “Wordless novels,” writes Walker, “have often treated controversial themes and been associated with protest movements.” And, as he points out, though the challenges they address were specific to their times, the broader issues are “sadly, still relevant to our contemporary eyes.” Sadly and yet, it’s difficult to feel anything but triumph to see them collected so carefully, presented so beautifully. Where else could one see the birth of a medium in such a perfectly wordless fashion? Belgian artist Frans Masereel (1899-1972) has been considered the father of the wordless graphic novel. Here we see the first publication of his classic work The Passion of a Man, since its original publication in Munich in 1918. From American artist Lynn Ward (1905-1985) we have Wild Pilgrimage, first published in the United States in 1932. Giacomo Patri (1898-1978) was Italian-born, though he worked and lived primarily in the United States. Here we have White Collar from 1929, a work that was used as a promotional piece by the labor movement. Finally Canadian Laurence Hyde (1914-1987) in Southern Cross criticizes American bomb testing in the South Pacific. -- Lincoln Cho

The Great Man by Kate Christensen (Doubleday) 320 pages
Wow. Just: wow. I was completely captivated by this book, and its conceit is so utterly simple that all you writers out there will kick yourselves for not thinking it up first. Famous artist, now dead. Estranged wife. Long-time lover, with child. Ageing sister, also a famous artist. And a pair of biographers who think it’s high time for someone to put the late great artist’s life in some sort of order. Except (1) they don’t know about each other and (2) what they get when they talk to the women is something much more fascinating than their personal takes on the artist's life. Instead, the woman spill the details of their own lives ... or at least that’s what we learn, thanks to the marvelous Kate Christensen. The author’s prose is wonderful, but as good as it is, it’s the way she draws these women that’s so unforgettable. Thinking back, I am reminded of something the actor Richard Dreyfus once said about Katharine Hepburn and Barbra Streisand. He said that both of them were definite, that while some actors are defined by the roles they play, these women defined the roles, making them indelible. That’s what Christensen makes of the women in this spectacular novel. In my full review a few months ago, I said I'd miss them all. I still do. --Tony Buchsbaum

The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland (Random House Canada/Bloomsbury USA) 288 pages
The opening line of The Gum Thief provides a pretty good elevator pitch for the book. “A few years ago it occurred to me that everybody past a certain age - -regardless of how they look on the outside -- pretty much constantly dreams of being able to escape from their lives.” This from Roger, fast on middle-age, an “aisles associate” at an office supply store. A novel doesn’t burn inside him exactly. It’s more like it slumbers in there, like a clump of undigested cheese. The other voice we hear belongs to goth girl Bethany: “I’m the dead girl whose locker you spat on somewhere between recess and lunch.” Bethany also works at Staples and the two strike up an unlikely relationship. This is a simplistic enough description of the book that it doesn’t even begin to cover it, yet how to do it justice without proper room to share the nuance, the subtleties, the strange delights of a Douglas Coupland novel? Suffice it to say that if you’ve enjoyed Coupland in the past -- Generation X, jPod, Shampoo Planet, so many others -- you will like this one, as well. If you’ve never tasted Coupland, The Gum Thief is as good a place to start any. The sharp wit, the stylish phrasing, the journey that’s as pleasurable as the destination, The Gum Thief is just as Coupland as it gets. -- Linda L. Richards

Heyday by Kurt Andersen (Random House) 640 pages
Former Spy magazine co-founder Andersen sets off for new ground -- and lots of it -- in his second novel (after Turn of the Century, 1999). From the often dangerous and dirty thoroughfares of Manhattan Island and the revolutionary corners of Paris, he follows a quartet of unlikely young pathfinders west across the United States to California’s gold rush country in the late 1840s. The author further complicates things by having these four -- an erudite journalist, a British expatriate, a prostitute turned actress, and a soldier-cum-arsonist -- pursued by a crazed French army sergeant who is convinced he’s hot on the trail of his brother’s killer. Andersen goes a bit heavy on travelogue and historical detail in spots; you can see that he didn’t want to waste much if any of the fascinating research he did for this novel. Nonetheless, Heyday boasts the infectious excitement of a nation bursting at the seams, unfettered by self-doubt. -- J. Kingston Pierce

The Last Novel by David Markson (Shoemaker & Hoard) 220 pages
A new literary genre is slowly unfolding. Not since French filmmaker/writer Alain Robbe-Grillet penned his “new novel” back in the 1950s has there been an anti-novel movement like this. Markson started writing his unusual books in 1996, this being the fourth of what could be called a sort of series. In this work, an elderly author is dying. Lonely, broke, and depressed, he has seen his friends die, his books fall from favour with the critics, and his health deteriorate. The Last Novel is made up of a series of short paragraphs, often just a sentence, as the Novelist, who is never named, ruminates on other writers, scientists, composers, artists and personages: their genius, their harsh treatment by critics, and even occasionally their scandalous behaviour. (You’ll never feel the same way about Mozart again.) It takes a while to fall into the rhythm of this book, but when you do you’ll be entranced. Making the assumption that everything Novelist writes about is true (and I may be wrong) it’s downright amazing that Markham could have all this information in his head. Where could he research all this? Interspersed with comments about people, famous and not, are occasional sentences giving information about the Novelist himself, but you have to look for them. It’s a literary treasure hunt that I found fascinating because, along the way you uncover all kinds of smaller treasures as you hunt for clues. Fortunately it’s a fairly thin book, because one reading is never going to be enough. Like Rap was to music, Markson’s novel could well be to literature. -- Cherie Thiessen

Overclocked by Cory Doctorow (Thunder’s Mouth Press) 285 pages
There’s a reason that Cory Doctorow has gotten to be one of the strongest voices in his field in such a relatively short period: he’s wonderful. He builds worlds so completely, it’s hard sometimes to see where his creation ends and your world begins. Hardcore fans of this writer will probably have seen the six stories collected in Overclocked before. “Anda’s Game,” in which a beleaguered earthbound girl finds success and popularity in the gaming world, was chosen by Michael Chabon for Best American Short Stories 2005. “When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth” was written live and broadcast to Doctorow’s fans via podcast. The affectionately named and genuinely inspired “I, Robot” won the 2005 Locus Award, and was a finalist for both the Hugo and the British Science Fiction Award. However, even fans who have encountered a story before will enjoy the author’s preface to each piece in the collection. A little monologue from Doctorow to get us on our way: this is a super touch, a bit of personal background to ground us before take off. It’s a great collection and just about impossible for me to pick favorites. This is the writer that, just this year, was named one of 250 Young Global Leaders by the World Economic Forum. When you read his fiction, this too makes sense. Doctorow is noted for his deep passion about the Internet as tool for democracy. He cares about people. And he also cares about big, new ideas. Add his very real talent into the mix and you have a writer worth watching. And we are. -- Linda L. Richards

The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver (HarperCollins) 528 pages
A twist on the road not taken: what if, instead, one has the chance to take both? Irina McGovern is a frugal, hard-working children’s book illustrator. Her long term relationship with think-tank consultant Lawrence Trainer is as solid as it is pleasantly dull. Enter Ramsay Acton, famous snooker player, whose wife, Jude, works with Irina. Jude deserts first Irina, then Ramsay. Lawrence, taking pity on Ramsay, invites him to dinner. The attraction between Irina and Ramsay is undeniable, leaving Irina to decide the which of two good men is the better. Here the narrative forks, alternating chapters: life with Lawrence, life with Ramsay. The first is sexually fizzled but settled, a life of healthy meals and successful work. Life with Ramsay is tumultuous, a rampant sexual romp set in the endless hotels snookers players inhabit while touring. Shriver slides in a great deal about expatriate life -- Irina and Lawrence are Americans living in London -- world politics, and the ways popcorn and chilies, frugality and frivolity, the competing demands of intellect and body -- can collide with bittersweet, unexpected results. -- Diane Leach

The Terror by Dan Simmons (Little, Brown and Company) 784 pages
Two of my favorite films are The Thing from Another World (1951) and its remake/reworking, John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982), which were based on a science-fiction story, “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell. All are set within the Arctic Circle. So I was amused to read that Simmons dedicated his latest book to the cast, writers and directors of the 1951 movie version. The reason is that The Terror shares its theme, location and atmosphere with that frigidly terrifying big-screen production. Simmons is a writer who I have followed for many years, as he’s penned award-winning horror fiction, science fiction and crime thrillers. The Terror seems to be a culmination of his work, and probably his most ambitious book, because it is studiously researched, written in period flavor and rich beyond belief in terms of its historical backdrop. The plot fictionalizes the account of a real British expedition in the 1840s to find the fabled “Northwest Passage” through to the Arctic. Two ships set off -- the HMS Erebus and the HMS Terror. The bone-gripping cold and ice are only two of the frights that the mariners face, for rotting food, disease, threat of mutiny and a creature trapped on the frozen ice start to pare down the ranks of participants in this unholy mission. The expedition is led by Captains John Franklin (on the Erebus) and Francis Crozier (commanding the Terror), and interestingly the book makes much of the class distinctions that were commonplace in those times. The most remarkable aspects of this novel, though, are its writing style and its atmospherics. I had to turn the heating up when I sat down with Simmons’ story, because reading about the cold weather that locked the two tall-masted ships in the polar ice actually gave me goosebumpy chills. On top of those were added metaphysical chills. After Simmons’ mariners leave their ships, they encounter an Eskimo man and woman, the latter of whom is mute, her tongue appearing to have been sliced out. Then comes the sound of a monster from somewhere out on the limitless, featureless ice, howling in concert with the wind. The superstitious mariners come to believe that this Eskimo woman is some kind of witch, drawing the monster toward them. Despite its doorstopper size, and heavy use of description, The Terror moves at a fair pace. I’d surmise that this novel was a labor of love for Simmons, who got the chance to invent his own circumstances around the fate of Franklin and his crew, who were last seen by other Europeans in July 1845. If you want a book to trap you for more than a few hours, with a most unconventional plot, The Terror is it. Just know that your heating bill will increase when you crack the spine of this hefty tome, because the chills inside are real. -- Ali Karim

Wife in the Fast Lane by Karen Quinn (Simon & Schuster) 448 pages

In Wife in the Fast Lane, former Olympic champion Christy Hayes, now the successful founder/CEO of Baby G, an athletic shoe company, has finally met and married the love of her life, sexy media mogul Michael Drummond. Childless by choice, due to Michael’s angst at his failed first marriage and resulting non-relationship with his daughter, they’ve settled into the fast-paced lifestyle of the rich and famous, and perpetual wedded bliss.
That all comes crashing down a few months later when Maria, Christy’s housekeeper and confidant, dies suddenly, leaving Christy to raise her 11-year-old granddaughter. Michael refuses to get involved in young Renata Ruiz’ life, reminding Christy of their agreement. As if that weren’t enough to send Christy into a funk, her business partner and best friend, Kathleen, stabs her in the back, ousting her from Baby G, a female newspaper reporter is set on breaking up her marriage, and the PTA at the private school she chooses for Renata is headed by the Stepford mother-from-hell. Wife in the Fast Lane is an example of chick lit at its best. Christy’s attempts to become the perfect wife and mother using the same leadership skills that failed her at her first career are misguided and hilarious, and the completely contrived happy ending will satisfy this genre’s fans everywhere. -- Mary Ward Menke

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wondering if anyone responsible for selecting the "Best Books of 2007: Fiction" on this site ever reads any books by Asian-American, Chicano, Native-American and African-American writers, or writers from other countries or parts of the world, besides North America or Europe. This list just seems to be the end result of an ongoing and rather tiresome Euro- and Western-centric myopia and bias regarding books (among other things).

I guess this is a logical extension of Ralph Ellison's conception of "invisibility." If one cannot actually "see" the people, I suppose it is just that much more difficult to "see" their books or to take them seriously.

Friday, December 21, 2007 8:35:00 AM PST  
Blogger Linda L. Richards said...

Your supposition is offensive on so many levels, I don't even know where to begin. But I'll leave it with this: you seem to suggest that, when considering which books they liked best, the contributors of this magazine should consider the race of the writers in question. We did not. So when I look at your rant, the first thing I think is: is it true? Are the books in the 2007 January Magazine best of fiction all by white writers? And, to be honest, I'm still not sure it's true. If it is, it's an abberation: that hasn't been true in other years. Nor is it true throughout the segments, so I can see why you've focused on fiction.

Please: save your venom for a venue where it would be more appropriate and perhaps even needed. Because January celebrates literature, full stop. To start including books or writers because we must or because we should defeats the purpose and beauty of that celebration. If you want to further your cause, why not tell us if the books we should have picked. Or, perhaps, the books you would have picked had you been asked. That's a better exercise, I think. What were your favorite books of 2007?

Friday, December 21, 2007 9:25:00 AM PST  

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