Microviews Vol. 36: Where All The Missing Socks Go (Neither The Wild West Nor A Galaxy Far, Far Away)

on Monday, August 5, 2013
The Son by Philip Meyer
Here's the thing with "The Great American Novel". People are too quick to slap on the sobriquet, thereby effectively kneecapping its recipient. So put your hands together for the latest Great American Novel to hit the shelves. Epic in scope (and pages), The Son is a multi-generational tale of one pilgrim family's progress from the frontier to genteel society. Often brutal, seldom flattering, it lays bare the sins of white America's past and, to a lesser extent, present. Meyer tracks the family through three characters - Eli McCullough, his son Peter and Peter's grand-niece Jeannie. The latter two are engaging enough - Peter partakes in a massacre of his Mexican neighbours then shacks up with the sole survivor, Jeannie struggles to keep control of the McCullough oil empire while her mind slips away. Yet it is Eli's tale, from his kidnap by Commanche Indians at thirteen, through his training as a brave and later repatriation into white society that really makes this book worth reading. Filled with passages that would make Cormac McCarthy blush, Eli's thread would in itself have made the case for Meyer entering the greater canon. Unfortunately, the other two threads pale next to it and only serve to dilute the overall experience. As it stands, The Son is a regular length masterpiece hiding within the pages of a very good, very long book.
4 Out of 5 Pretty Horses

Tampa by Alissa Nutting
Lolita didn't become a classic because of its graphic description of Humbert Humbert jacking off at every possible opportunity over the idea (and later the person) of a little girl. Seems Alissa Nutting missed the memo because this tawdry affair (pun semi-intended) lacks the depth, psychological complexity and beautiful subtlety of Nabokov's masterpiece. Leaving its lasciviousness aside, Celeste is one of the least believable characters in contemporary literature and the plot holes that Nutting creates to allow her to fulfil her sick desires are so big that I suspect every sock ever lost in a dryer in the history of the world could fit inside. To be fair, Tampa has one redeeming feature: the jacket design is incredible Otherwise, this is an embarrassing disaster of a novel. If your interest has been piqued by the hype, read Zoe Heller's Notes On A Scandal or Eleanor Catton's The Rehearsal instead.
1.5 Out Of 5 Bargain Bins

My Father's Ghost Is Climbing In The Rain by Patricio Pron
Pron brings fresh Bolano stylings to the Dirty War in this deeply affecting, pleasantly surprising novel. What begins as a son's homecoming to care for his dying father quickly becomes a personal investigation into the investigation of a murder. Neither the who, why or howdunnit matters, but rather what made the narrator's father take such a special interest in the case. I was expecting a typical Music Box-type denouement, but Pron is far smarter and more compassionate than that. The answer lies not in complicity but survivor's guilt, making My Father's Ghost... a truly original, powerful addition to the body of literature on one of modern history's most troubling periods.
3.5 Out Of 5 Shiny Epaulettes

William Shakespeare's Star Wars by Ian Doescher
Verily go thou nerdgasm. Doth Ian Doescher fancy himself a modern Francis Bacon or Chritopher Marlowe? Alak alak. Tis' but a blip on yonder radar for, while a good idea this might seem at first, a crime against good sense it turns out to be. Did Doescher listen not to the great Yoda? Doeth or Doeth not, there is no try. Better he did not. Beep Beep Woooow saith the R2 unit.
2.5 Out Of 5 Death Stars

Two Novellas by David Vogel
Following my delight in the discovery of Vogel's Viennese Romance I was very excited to see this sitting on the table at my local bookstore. Needless to say, I snapped it up immediately, dragged back in the shingle, and disappeared for a few hours. It was not the sublime reading experience I had been hoping for. The first novella, In The Sanatorium, has an oddly Monty Pythonesque edge, with its blackly comic tale of a hypochondiac in a clinic for people with TB. As the predicaments grew more dire, and the characters more jolly, I couldn't help but sing the great refrain to "Always look on the bright side of life". The second novella, Facing The Sea, is a much more ordinary affair. Despite an air of decadence that brings to mind both Fitzgerald and Huysmans, I just couldn't take to the couple struggling with their fidelity while holidaying on some wanky beach. I was hoping for Mr. Ripley to make an appearance, if only to stick a knife or seven into the decadent posers.
3 Out Of 5 Iron Lungs


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