Microviews Vol. 33: The Sandman Versus The Succubus

on Sunday, June 23, 2013
TransAtlantic by Colum McCann
So here's a fantastic idea. Write the Great Post 9/11 American Novel, work out what made it so good and then try to recreate it it with another story using exactly the same tricks. At first I was excited; TransAtlantic opens pretty well with Alcock and Brown's flight from Newfoundland to West Ireland in 1919. Jump back eighty years and we get Frederick Douglas, the free American slave, visiting Ireland to spread the word of democracy. Now jump forward another one hundred and fifty years to a tense retelling of the diplomatic acrobatics that would ultimately bring about the Good Friday Agreement. The book continues to jump around time and space, slowly revealing the common thread: the unsung role of women in each of these great moments. By the time I realised what it was really about, I had stopped caring.
2.5 Out Of 5 Stumbling Trapeze Artists

Viennese Romance by David Vogel
Not since Hermann Ungar's perverted, claustrophobic masterpiece The Maimed, have I been so throughly enthralled by something so ghastly. Indeed, this long lost novel by David Vogel shares much with Ungar's book - a young man takes lodgings with a family and soon becomes entangled in a lust triangle with both mother and daughter. It is creepy and unsettling, with fairly graphic descriptions of illicit underage sex and all sorts of other dirty underworld dealings, but don't let any of that put you off. Viennese Romance is like watching the most spectacular train wreck. You simply cannot look away.
4 Out Of 5 Salacious Speakeasies

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud
Who doesn't enjoy a bitter crone ranting against the world? And while 42 might be a little young to qualify as a crone, Nora Eldridge is most certainly a bitter, bitter woman. Her youthful aspirations to artistic greatness have long ago given way to an ordinary life as a primary school teacher. But the arrival of an exotic new student, Reza, in her third grade class offers Nora the chance of redemption. The boy is quiet and fragile, his parents boho archetypes. A chance accident sees Nora insinuate herself in their lives, eventually renting a studio with Reza's mum, Sirena, an artist on the cusp of big things. Friendship develops into obsession and, ultimately betrayal (though Messud deftly forces the reader to reconsider the user/used dynamic), all recounted in Nora's thoroughly pitiful drone.
3.5 Out Of 5 Nancy Ganzes

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman
Gaiman fans will no doubt lap up this not-quite-for-kids but not-quite-for-adults fable, ignoring the fact that it follows a pretty standard formula. Think every book ever where a child protagonist must fight the evil monster (in human babysitter form) and you'll have a pretty good idea what's going on here. Apparently, this was a labour of love inspired by Gaiman's newish wife, the creative succubus, Amanda Palmer. What can I say? Rilke he ain't.
2.5 Out Of 5 Pockets Full of Kryptonite

Pink Mist by Owen Sheers
Tales of modern war, it seems, are best left in the hands of poets. Last year it was Kevin Powers, who strayed from his usual medium to gift us with the amazing novel Yellow Birds. This year it is Owen Sheers, whose devastatingly brilliant prose poem does for the war in Afghanistan what Powers did for Iraq. Very few books drive home the reality of war like this - the fear, the anger, the stupidity and, ultimately, the regret. The language is stunning, the imagery shimmering with brutal clarity. Absolutely unmissable.
4.5 Out Of 5 Angry Amputees


Evan said...

Have you looked into David Vogel's Married Life? Another rather devastating read.

The Bookworm said...

Not yet. Apparently it too is being republished, as are two of his novellas in a single volume. Will definitely read them all.

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