"The sad, fucking truth was that no matter who you are, you never, ever, will get your fill."
Empire Falls was my first forte into the literary world...more"The sad, fucking truth was that no matter who you are, you never, ever, will get your fill."
Empire Falls was my first forte into the literary world of Richard Russo. He was the editor (well, the one that chooses the stories) for the 2010 Best American Short Stories, and I thought he did a hell of job, so I decided to give one of his novels a go. This one won the Pulitzer Prize, so I figured I didn't have much to lose.
Well, I was rather impressed with Empire Falls. Russo is a born storyteller. Reminds me a great deal of John Irving (one of my all time favs). They both have mastered that down home style of telling a heart warming story by revealing little by little the extreme fuckupedness of the families involved. The reader loves these caricatures because they are people that he or she has known sometime while cruising through their life. But, these caricatures are all part of the same family, or ex-family, or family that could have been (to quote Max: "them Robys and Robideaux, they're all the same")
"Was anything in the world truer than that intuitive leap of the heart? Could anything so true be a sin? Even though he now knew, as he had not before, that he wouldn't surrender to this particular temptation, still, how wonderful to be desired! Surely, this was God's gift to fallen man. both the reason and sweet recompense for the loss of Paradise."
The central character, Mills Roby, is the "nice guy" that most women don't want to be with because. ..well, he's too nice. He lets people walk all over him (but, surprisingly, in a believable way); so much so that Mills allows the guy his wife left him for to constantly tease, goad, and bully him while he's working as the short-order cook in the town's local grill. Other characters, and the reader themselves, want nothing better than to pummel this asshole; but, Mills breathes deeply and just carries on.
Empire Falls is a place full characters with secrets, and differing interpretations. It's like all small towns where everyone knows your name, and the good, bad, and ugly that you do before even you decide to do it. Russo made me want to visit this town. Meet Miles Roby, and drop by for Mexican night at the Empire Grill. Russo made me care for the characters and their home and history. And, then just when you were comfortable, he pulled the rug right out from under your feet to become one hell of a great story. I enjoyed Empire Falls, and I enjoyed Richard Russo. Might be a while till I get back to him, but, he's definitely on my horizon.
"What if all everybody needed in the world was to be sure of one friend? What if you were the one, and you refused to say those simple words?"
Richard Russo = John Irving's foster brother, That in itself is the seller!
Recommended? you betcha.
4 glorious stars with a healthy dose of hash browns on the side. (less)
"The truth is darkness, and the only thing that matters is making a statement before one enters it. Cutting the skin of the world and leaving a scar....more"The truth is darkness, and the only thing that matters is making a statement before one enters it. Cutting the skin of the world and leaving a scar. That's all history is, after all: scar tissue."
I am always excited when a new Stephen King novel hits the shelves. This dude is the reason I read. He is the master, and I am the Constant Reader. Somewhere, along the way (early 90's) King's work took a dive. Probably because he was adapting to writing sober (honestly, some his best work was done when he couldn't even walk a straight line, but he could type a bitchin' one!) Now, his work has become mature, without the hard edge of horror. More psychological and less oogie boogie. Recently, he has resurfaced some of his monsters, but still has kept that psychological edge. I went into this new novel, once I knew the subject matter, thinking I would like it, and probably award it a 3 star, or so. And, the only mantra in my head was: "please don't let this be another Cell. Please. Please. Oh pretty fucking please!"
Mr. Mercedes rocked. I mean I went through the book in only a day and a half. I literally couldn't put it down. King, once again, has given us three dimensional protagonists in Bill Hodges, and Jerome Robinson (I imagine an older John Goodman, and Will Smith from his Fresh Prince days). Some of the dialogue between these two is hysterical, as though King can hear the words, not just make them up. Their reality propels the story, not the other way around. And, when I think of pure evil in King's world I always associate Randall Flagg as the one who could make the devil his bitch. But, King's new prince of darkness, Mr. Mercedes (aka Brady Hartfield) is one cold hearted psychopath.
I'm giving this book 4 stars, but, after I finished it I found out that this is supposed to be the first book in a trilogy. So maybe this is just the opening act of a three act play. Similar to The Green Mile; the first book was 4/5, but when you weight all six books together every one is a solid 5 outta 5.
Mr. Mercedes is the real deal. This is a kick-ass story that might just be the introduction of King's new Randall Flagg (I can only hope). And, hey, at least it wasn't another Cell!
Recommended? You betcha. Randall Flagg fans rejoice. Sai King.
Gass is a poet, who happens to write novels. He has his own uni...more"Brackett Omensetter was a wide and happy man."
Is that not the most beautiful sentence?
Gass is a poet, who happens to write novels. He has his own unique grasp of the English language (with all its American dialects), and he uses them to their fullest extent. And, for some reason, I don't picture the author editing with a thesaurus; I picture Gass has this reference book installed into his subconscious, where the words flow from his mouth onto the written page. Cormac McCarthy appears to have adopted Gass' style, but McCarthy is more of the novelist that uses poetic language.
Omensetter's Luck was my first experience reading a William Gass book. And, it certainly won't be my last. Gass experiments with different styles with every part in the book. The main part, giving a perspective from a demented preacher, is a stream of consciousness style that can be overwhelming at times, but just when you are about to give up, Gass seems to recognize the reader's exasperation and throws in a couple of pages of dialogue that would match anything from Elmore Leonard. His superb ear for dialogue enhances the parables and biblical imagery. Resulting in his characters becoming full-fleshed, and understood, only after a couple of sentences. The quote that begins this review is the introductory sentence for Omensetter. His nemesis (for want of a better word), Furber , has an introduction that is not as generous:
"Jethro Furber, fourth in this church and a liar."
Only to be outdone when the characters meet each other:
"Both of Omensetter's hands had reached for his, enclosing it warmly. His own had seemed terribly pale and damp, wrongly inside of the other's, like a worm in fruit."
Omentsetter's Luck is a constant play on words. Gass makes his character's physical descriptions contradict their true personalities. Omensetter is a dark man, like gravy. Whereas Furber is pale, his skin bright. These tricks are not new; even when the book came out others had trampled across this written pathway before Gass even attempted to make a step. But, Gass took all these things and made it his own. He is a poet that speaks words masterfully, not only to explain something, but just for the beauty of the words themselves.
"It was always easier to love great trees than people. Such trees were honest. Their deaths showed."
"...he'd had the forehead of a man who was destined to be drowned."
"Men, in my experience, are the worst disease, ..."
But, don't let me fool you entirely. Gass is a writer that can make many a reader shake his head. There is a fine line between words that are beautifully chosen, to words that are just plain beautiful together. The latter is more poetic, causing the author to string up sentences such as:
"Kingfishers fell like spots across the eyes and laughter was yellow."
I realized after a couple (okay, it was more like 20) times going over this sentence, I was able to get some sort of reasoning behind it. This sentence is Furber describing a river scene. Birds, I believe are like those spots that are in the corner of our eyes, only to have vanished when we look to see. It constantly stays out of our vision. And, their cries might sound like laughter, but they are actually the birds screaming from fright from predators (yellow = cowardly). Like I said, it's all interpretation. And, Gass could look at that explanation and reply with: "No. I just thought they were pretty words, and the eyes referred to potatoes, and the yellow refers to being primary. But, nice try." But, this is what makes books great. Readers getting multiple views from the same words. Causing interpretations that allow the reader to feel the author understands their thoughts, and is speaking specifically to them. Gass is that writer.
But for being such a master, his vocabulary can be crude, reflecting the characters that he is concentrating on. His use of the "C" word (the one that rhymes with bunt) is crass; however, he actually has the gall to use the word as an adjective to describe the colour of the sky! What's frustrating is that he uses it well. I didn't expect poets to use such profanity, or better yet: to use profanity as poetry. Either way, Gass is a vulgar master that is an original postmodern bad boy. And, I cry to the heavens...bring on The Tunnel!
Although living in the town for nearly three quarters of a century, the residents of Clanton, Mississippi hardly knew Seth Hubbard. That was until Oct...moreAlthough living in the town for nearly three quarters of a century, the residents of Clanton, Mississippi hardly knew Seth Hubbard. That was until October 2nd, 1987, when he was found hanging from a sycamore tree. The cause of death was not in question: it was suicide. Even the reason for taking his own life was never second guessed: Seth was dying from lung cancer. What the people wanted to know was why, the day before he hung himself, such a shrewd businessman would change his will from a proper, legally-notarized document to one written by his own hand. To ensure his wishes are followed to the letter, Seth has sent this new will, along with a letter, to Jake Brigance.
The same Jake Brigance, who three years earlier, succeeded in having an all white jury acquit Carl Lee Hailey, a black man, for killing the white men who brutally assaulted his young daughter. The scars from that racially divided town have just begun to heal. However, the town of Clanton is about to reopen that wound. Because in Seth's new will, he is not leaving any money to his son, nor his daughter, nor any of his grandchildren. Five percent of his estate shall be given to both The Irish Road Christian Church, and his long lost brother Ancil. The remainder of Seth's $24 million dollar estate is to be given to Lettie Lang, his housekeeper.
His black housekeeper.
Twenty five years ago, the undisputed master of the legal thriller made his literary debut with A Time to Kill, which set the publishing world ablaze. Now with Sycamore Row, John Grisham makes his much anticipated return to where it all began. Readers familiar with his debut novel, along with his collection of short stories, Ford County, are instantly going to recognize some of his most beloved characters, along with the memorable town they inhabit.
Grisham chose the setting to remain in the late 1980's to allow some of his older characters from A Time to Kill to play pivotal roles. Also, with modern technology such as cell phones and internet, the plot would not have worked as well.
"When you have no future, you live in the past"
This was a time when nearly everyone smoked, people spent Sunday mornings in church, and when the locals weren't driving drunk they were reminiscing about a time when they did. Grisham's latest courtroom mystery might feature known characters, however, the novel is still comprised of the same plot-driven formula his fans have come to expect.
Familiar characters, placed in a familiar setting, enduring a familiar conflict. It's a comfortable read by one of the best in the business.
On August 24, 1305, a Scottish priest is admitted into London's Smithfield Prison, in order to hear a condemned man's final confession. But, Father Ja...moreOn August 24, 1305, a Scottish priest is admitted into London's Smithfield Prison, in order to hear a condemned man's final confession. But, Father James Wallace has heard it all before. He is in fact there only to comfort his cousin, William, as he awaits the dawn's early light and his moment with destiny. William is not afraid of dying, he is afraid that the motivation behind his treacherous acts will be forgotten. Father James can only assure that they will not.
Decades later, the legend of "The Wallace" has reached mythical status among the Scottish people, where most tales are exaggerated, while others are entirely forgotten. Father James will set the record straight. The record where Will Wallace was an expert with the English long bow - not the sword. And, a tale that exposes a Will Wallace that is only a by-product of English maliciousness. But, mostly, Father James will recount, in great detail, the numerous loyal friendships that helped shape the orphaned lad into one of the Guardians of Scotland. And, how a lovely maiden, named Mirren Braidfoot, ignited a fire in this guardian's heart, before an unspeakable tragedy became the catalyst that set the country ablaze. James Wallace was an eye witness to it all, for before he was Father James, he was a brother-in-arms to The Forest Laird.
Canadian author, Jack Whyte, is known for bringing new life to the King Arthur legend, by blending historical facts with adventurous storytelling, in his "The Dream of Eagles" series. Now, with The Forest Laird (the first book of The Guardian Trilogy), Whyte leaves the Braveheart legend for the big screen and switches his focus to the man, William Wallace. All his tragic occurrences and personal triumphs, the reader bears witness to, as narrated through the eyes of Will's cousin, Father James. Unforgettable fictional characters share the page with important historical figures, such as: Lord Robert Bruce, King Edward I (Plantageret) of England, King John (Balliol) of Scotland, and Bishop Bek of Durham.
This historical novel concentrates on the tensions, conflicts and politics between England and Scotland in the late 13th Century, following the unexpected death of Alexander III, King of Scots. By happenstance, William Wallace's life runs parallel to these events, until everything is reversed and the events seem to revolve around Wallace. Whyte's wordsmith skills propel him to the ranks of historical novelists Edward Rutherford (Sarum), and James Michener (Chesapeake), with his ability to reflect not only the geography and landscape of the Scottish countrysides and forests, but the snapshot in time, as well. Just as Leon Uris',Trinity, gave testimony to the Irish's suffering at the hands of the English, Whyte's The Forest Laird, gives credence and explanation to a similar revolution, by the Scottish people, hundreds of years earlier.
Jack Whyte's, The Forest Laird, brings a reality tale to the Scottish legend of William Wallace. Prompting the reader to acknowledge that reality is stranger - and, more enjoyable - than fiction.
On my honour I promise that I will do my best To do my duty to God and the Queen To help other people at all times, And to carry out the spi...moreScout Promise
On my honour I promise that I will do my best To do my duty to God and the Queen To help other people at all times, And to carry out the spirit of the Scout Law.
When reading THE TROOP, the reader can't help but compare this to LORD OF THE FLIES. I mean, c'mon, were talking about a group of kids, stranded on an island, and horrors (both imaginary and real) rip them from the innocence of childhood...but, ya see, it ain't like that at all.
This is a horror novel, told from a Canadian perspective. The setting is an island just north of P.E.I. (Prince Edward Island), references to Toronto as being "The Big Smoke", and the government bad guys hail from the Royal Canadian Navy. This Scout leader is the town doctor with a real life, with real problems, and the five troop members are three-dimensional teens that mirror Ralph, Jack and Piggy from Golding's classic; but, they are drawn out with enough realism that you can almost reach out and touch them.
A Scout is helpful and trustworthy, kind and cheerful, considerate and clean, wise in the use of all resources.
The reason is that it would take a combination of Cutter's characters to make up one of Golding's. For example, the characters Kent and Shelley if joined together would become LOTF character Jack Merridew. Just as the characters Max and Ephraim would morph into LOTF hero Ralph (?No last name given?). Also, it wouldn't take a rocket scientist to compare THE TROOP's overweight Newton to Golding's nerdy character Piggy. All of Cutter's characters show at times innocence, evil, desperation, good judgement and bad...well, except for one of these boys, who is pretty much Hannibal Lector's love child. And, what triples the pleasure is that each of these boys' parents are just as fucked up as they are, making for some creative flashbacks.
In the acknowledgements, Cutter gives his due to the master, Stephen King. Noting that he thought the way CARRIE was laid out was the best way to allow his readers to experience THE TROOP. Also, the reader sees similarities to plot developments of King's later works (THE STAND, THE BODY, STORM OF THE CENTURY, DREAMCATCHER, and his kick-ass short story, "Survivor Type").But, hey King is the best, and he has done the best, so everyone is eventually going to imitate him.
On the back flap of Nick Cutter's novel, it states that he is the pseudonym for an acclaimed author of novels and short stories. It doesn't take much research to uncover that Nick Cutter is aka hardcore horror novelist Patrick Lestewka, which are both pen names for Canadian Giller Prize nominee, Craig Davidson. Why so many names? Well, they are all unique styles: Lestewka could be compared to Edward Lee, while Davidson has a Chuck Palahniuk style to him. So where does that leave Cutter?
How about into the realm of absolute brilliance.
I read THE TROOP before uncovering who Cutter really was. But, along the way I immediately thought of AFRAID author, Jack Kilborn, and his never-let-up style of horror. It wasn't until I came across literary nuggets of prose...
"The sky was salted with remote stars."
...that I thought of Jack Ketchum (the most under-rated horror author ever, IMHO).
I mean this novel had me at the edge of my seat with dastardly deeds, and some of the most impure thoughts, and what shines bright in my mind is the freaking death of a turtle - Anyone who has read this gem will back me up on this. It's the writing style, and inventive way it is created, along with the amazing prose that makes THE TROOP live up to its name. I could compare the inventiveness to other authors, but, I think it is time to stop. Because, the truth is, this is not...
Lord of the Flies Stephen King Jack Ketchum Jack Kilborn Chuck Palahniuk Edward Lee Patrick Lestewka, or even.... Craig Davidson
It is more than that
This is Nick Cutter.
You ever wonder why some of the best horror novels involve children? Well, I think it's time to let Cutter do the talking:
"Adults were scared of different things: their jobs, their mortgages, whether they hung out with the "right people", whether they would die unloved. These were pallid compared to the fears of a child--leering clowns under the bed and slimy monsters capering beyond the basement's light and faceless sucking horrors from beyond the stars. There's no 12-step or self-help group for dealing with those fears.
Or maybe there is: you just grow up.
And when you do, you surrender the nimbleness of mind required to believe in such things--but also to cope with them. And so when adults find themselves in a situation where that nimbleness is needed...well, they can't summon it. So they fall to pieces: go insane, panic, suffer heart attacks and aneurysms brought on by fright. Why?
They simply don't believe it could be happening.
That's what's different about kids: they believe everything can happen, and fully expect it to."
Mark my words, sometime in the future, some obscure author is going to publish an inventive new horror novel that the public is gonna go ape-shit over, and the first words outta people's mouths are going to be...That book is so much like Nick Cutter!