Wednesday, April 30, 2008


I recently finished Saturday by Ian McEwan and just wanted to put a little blurb on here. I think Ian McEwan is an excellent writer! This book sounded so real even though the characters and events were not every day things at all. I couldn't put the book down, it was intense! A window into a man's life on a very crazy day. I liked it a lot!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Speed of Dark

At once near-future page-turner and philosophical treatise, The Speed of Dark had me in its grips from start to finish. From the first page, I was completely taken with the narrator, an autistic man who is first commanded and then offered a chance at an experimental cure. It's not surprising that his voice sounds so real, or that I liked him immediately—the author is the mother of an autistic teenager. Her love and understanding shine throughout.

Journeying with Lou as he grapples with this important decision brought me to consider huge questions like what is “normal?” what is self? will Lou still be Lou if he becomes “normal?” I hoped so. We think of autistics as lacking some basic human social or emotional connection. Not true. Sometimes Lou's way makes a lot more sense than mine. Walking through the world inside his brain for a little while, I see the whole place a little differently.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Ideas of Heaven

I recently read a lovely collection of short stories by Joan Silber called Ideas of Heaven. The book is subtitled “A Ring of Stories” because the stories are connected one to the next, and they come full circle in the end – someone mentioned in passing in one story reappears as the protagonist/narrator in the next until the last story is tied back to the first.

The stories are also linked by a running theme: faith, love and sex. Silber explores the ways in which sex, love and religion are “always fighting over the same ground – with their sweeping claims, their promises of transport” and how each tends to fill in where the others fail. Her stories revolve around longing – religious and/or sexual. A “sacred thirst,” one character calls it. “Forms of devotion, forms of consolation.”

Silber successfully pulls off the “ring” device by making the connections subtle yet clear, without being obvious or seeming overwrought. What makes the ring even more impressive is that each story occurs in vastly different places and times – they take place in modern-day America and France, in Renaissance Italy, in China around 1900.

In fact, one of the things I most enjoyed about Silber is her dexterity – her ability to write convincingly about each of these disparate times and places and to assume, credibly, the voices of the dissimilar characters who inhabit those times and places. A gay man in New York, a turn-of-the-century Christian missionary in China, an Italian courtesan – she gives each of these a distinct, genuine voice.

Something else unusual about these stories is their epic sweep. Often short-story writers will focus on illuminating one small-yet-significant moment or one telling incident. Silber’s stories capture years, decades, lifetimes, without seeming fractured or incomplete. She distills complex characters and their equally complex lives into a few remarkable pages.

I very much enjoyed Silber’s clear, illuminating way with words, and the thoughtful, introspective tone with which she handles some fairly intense subject matter. Her stories are passionate and compassionate, elegant and wise, and they remind us that solace is sometimes found where and when we least expect it.