Another book from my teen years in South Dakota, from the magically rich YA section of the base library. Shamefully, all that sticks to me from this bAnother book from my teen years in South Dakota, from the magically rich YA section of the base library. Shamefully, all that sticks to me from this book is the sex (I was astounded there was a sex scene!) so I can't say how nuanced the story was -- but it deeply fascinated me and spurred an obsessive interest in apartheid in South Africa....more
I'm a huuuuuuuge fangirl for Harrison's first novel, Our Man in the Dark and I've been on pins-and-needles for his next release. I inhaled this readI'm a huuuuuuuge fangirl for Harrison's first novel, Our Man in the Dark and I've been on pins-and-needles for his next release. I inhaled this read -- it's a dramatic, plotty, swashbuckling-ish yarn -- but am a little conflicted about how I feel!
Set just after the Civil War has ended, the novel follows Jupiter Archer, a former slave who fought for the Union Army, now living as a "crimper" in San Francisco. A crimper, as it turns out, is someone who essentially kidnaps -- or Shanghais -- men to work on ships. It's not the job he wanted, but he's frantically searching for his wife. He's also being pursued by Archer Smith, the son of his former owner; Archer also happens to be his half-brother. Theirs is a complicated relationship (no surprise, right?) made even more complicated when they both are crimped themselves and tossed onto a ship with the cagey, charismatic Captain Barrett. From there, the novel goes on a dramatic, action-filled journey halfway around the world while Jupiter and Archer struggle to get what they each desire.
As with his previous novel, the characters are evocative and compelling. Jupiter is a deeply sympathetic figure, but everyone in this book is complicated and shaded in gray. Archer seems, on the surface, to be one-note -- simply after revenge -- but as the novel goes on, we see the damage he suffered at the hand of his parents. Even the bombastic Captain Barrett, who has shades of Ahab and the Terminator to him, is a fascinating figure.
Harrison perfectly balances the adventurous plot with lovely ruminations; my copy is dogeared from all the delightful quotes I wanted to remember and note.
"I'm going to fight for my freedom," said Jupiter. So earnest, he was. Did he believe it? What did he know about fighting? Honor. Valor. Those were things he overheard the sons of plantation owners talk about as they played soldier with their wooden swords. What did he know of it? He was simply a mockingbird with his wings clipped, singing a song in which he mimicked the sounds but couldn't grasp their context. (p40)
My only complaint about the book is that it had an episodic feel, almost like a screenplay that had been filled out. A character might think of something -- a memory, for example -- and then Harrison would immediately whoosh to that scene in a slightly awkward way. Occasionally, events happened so quickly I felt like I was being rushed out the door, and I wouldn't have minded a longer novel to spend more time with Harrison's intriguing cast.
I'm once more excited for Harrison's next offering (if there is one, I don't know!). A quick read that has the sort of feel of a "rip-roaring yarn" with a contemporary understanding of slavery, servitude, and family, this novel is worth picking up this summer for those who enjoy historical fiction, nautical tales, and stories that touch on what happens after war and other bloody conflicts....more
This is a reissue of a 2012 self-published novel that went through some rewrites and plot changes. Sadly, it still read like a self-pubbed novel to meThis is a reissue of a 2012 self-published novel that went through some rewrites and plot changes. Sadly, it still read like a self-pubbed novel to me, so I DNF'd at 50ish pages.
Writing style and plotting reminded me of M.L. Malcolm, who isn't my tastes, but has lots of rabid fans. Dialogue felt weak to me and there's so much melodrama it lost its impact after the first chapters....more
Inspired by the classic story of Antigone, this stark collection of poetry is both an homage to a story of rebellion and an original exploration of aInspired by the classic story of Antigone, this stark collection of poetry is both an homage to a story of rebellion and an original exploration of a woman's fiery outrage.
Beautifully bound, holding this slender volume -- 104 pages -- is a treat, and the spare layout gives room to the explosive language Slaight uses.Written between 1972 - 1981, the pieces have a kind of '70s Second-wave feminist feel, but I don't mean that badly. This is the kind of stuff I cut my teeth on in college: violent, unabashed, pagan and passionate. I was reminded of Margaret Atwood, Barbara Walker, and Sharon Olds.
Whether one is familiar with the story of Antigone or not, the poems are easy to understand and appreciate. Slaight's "heroine" is by turns angry, quiet, and resigned, and the brevity only emphasizes the punch of her sentiments.
In this grey dawn Only The debauched loneliness Of your thigh Flung Across mine
My favorite piece has to be the closing, in which our heroine declares: "I wanted everything./To live all lives, all deaths, encompass all women." I can empathize with that enormous, dramatic sentiment; the mundane end to that poem is positively bittersweet.
The pieces are punctuated throughout by illustrations from Terrence Tasker. I don't know if they were intentionally created to pair with Slaight's pieces or if Slaight and Tasker decided simply to pair the two, but the haunting images are perfect. They give me the sense of Greek theater, further connecting Slaight's heroine to Antigone.
A lovely, dramatic volume for fans of poetry and those who enjoy classics, as well as anyone who enjoys feminist lit and poetry.
I have to give a shout out to this review from Kahakai Kitchen, which includes a delicious sounding recipe for Greek salad with halloumi....more
I am woefully late with this review. I finished reading it quite a while ago and am having to write this review from what lingers, more than a month lI am woefully late with this review. I finished reading it quite a while ago and am having to write this review from what lingers, more than a month later.
The novel alternates between Jeremy Best, a trusts and estates attorney who writes poetry under a pen name, and Spaulding Simonson, a 19-year old aspiring writer fresh from a stint in a mental hospital, as a friendship develops between them. In the span of about 250 pages, Greenland tackles unlikely love, work versus vocation, poetry, mortality, and the complicated tangle of family in a quirky, bright, and occasionally snarky manner.
Jeremy wants to write but he's also very good at his job. When the pretty and appealingly odd Spaulding -- daughter of his boss -- shows up in his doorway, his natural inclination is to put her off. But Spaulding -- who has been put off by everyone in her life -- is determined to get Jeremy's attention, especially when she discovers he's a well-regarded poet.
I will admit, when it became clear there was to be a romance between our 30-something hero and the 19-year old heroine, I initially couldn't stop a Liz Lemon-esque eye roll and "Oh, brother!". But once I got that out of my system, I found I didn't mind the burgeoning, awkward will-they-won't-they; both Jeremy and Spaulding were flawed creatures and faced intriguing obstacles, both of their own invention and from the people around them.
Greenland is a playwright and novelist who is also the producer and writer for HBO's Big Love, and the kind of bittersweet, dark humor that I've seen in the show also permeates (delightfully) this novel. His writing style differs between Jeremy and Spaulding, and while I didn't completely buy his articulation of a 19-year old woman, I loved his sheepish, creative, and conflicted Jeremy:
The field of trusts and estates presents ample opportunity for outright larceny. As clients are overtaken by the myriad indignities of age their minds will often cloud and the wily attorney, if endowed with a soupcon of unscrupulousness, can, with the mere adjustment of a comma, redirect amounts of money the size of the night sky. This was never my approach because greed is the lease attractive of the deadly sins. The truth is, I had never done anything that could remotely be construed as unethical much less illicit. (p146)
A fast read, accessible and fun, and perfect for the summer. A little knowing, a little sad, a lovely mix of literary and fluffy. For those new to Europa Editions, this is a great introduction to the kind of sophisticated, compelling stuff they release....more