2013: The Mid-Year Report

on Monday, July 1, 2013
A lack of New Years Resolutions means I can keep this nice and short. I've kept to the one I did make - review every book I read. That means 80 reviews done and dusted (I've actually read 81 books, but one is embargoed until October so you'll just have to wait). Of those, three got the full treatment (J.M. Coetzee's The Childhood Of Jesus, Javier Marias's The Infatuations and Iain Banks's final novel, The Quarry) while the rest were reduced to nugget-sized Microviews. Hope you've enjoyed the drippings of sweat from my brow!

Books of The Year (So Far)
The first half of 2013 has provided us booknerds with a veritable carnival of delights. Javier Marias brought us what I consider to be the masterpiece in an already spectacular career with his philosophical murder mystery, The Infatuations. Following a decade of mediocrity, Jim Crace finally proved that he could still pen a killer novel with the historical drama, Harvest. Owen Sheers joined the ranks of Kevin Powers and Karl Marlantes with his remarkable prose poem of the war in Afghanistan, Pink Mist. David Foster Wallace reappeared in spectral form in his wife Karen Green's extraordinary free verse piece about loss and recovery, Bough Down. Colm Toibin gave voice to one of history's most misunderstood women in The Testament Of Mary. And Ken Kalfus had me smiling and scratching my head at his adventurous mathematical romp of human folly, Equilateral.

Discovery Of The Year
It would be remiss of me to neglect to mention my standout discovery of 2013, Goncalo M. Tavares. Although he has not published anything this year, all four books I read were marvellous in their own way and I can't wait until Dalkey Archive get off their lazy arses and translates some of his other stuff. You hear me Dalkey? Don't make me learn Portugeuse.

Books Of Previous Years
Tavares aside, I have read some great books not published in 2013. Carlos Fuentes's Vlad was a playful take on the Dracula myth. The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick had my jaw resting firmly on the floor for its entire 530 pages. I was repulsed and compelled in equal parts by Pascal Garnier's masterful crime thriller The A26. Ditto David Vogel's lost classic, Viennese Romance. And, of course, my rereads of Dasa Drndic's Trieste and Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle proved just as satisfying the second time around.

The Crystal Ball
Still lots to look forward to this year, with new releases expected from Jonathan Lethem, Donna Tartt, Robert Coover, Thomas Pynchon, Laszlo Kraznahorkai and William Vollman. I'm also keen to read Elizabeth Silver's The Execution of Noa P. Singleton, Andrew Sean Greer's The Impossible Lives of Greta Welles and Simon Van Booy's The Illusion of Separateness. As far as I can tell, those three are short and sweet, which is more than I can say for some of the others I meantioned. Tartt's newy weighs in at almost 800 pages and you'll be needing wrist braces to support all 1100 pages of Coover . It's a strange year when the shortest of the lot comes from serial verbiage-faucet Vollman!


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