Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sarnath Banerjee, The Barn Owl's Wondrous Capers

I stumbled across The Barn Owl's Wondrous Capers last weekend while browsing the "graphic novel" (comics?) shelves in Borders. Part of the draw, I suppose, was the memory of some Satyajit Ray films I saw last fall. And enjoyed.

The story of Barn Owl -- such as there is (since there's really not just one story) -- is interesting enough, and a bit of a history lesson, such as it is. I enjoyed it certainly.

The drawing is a bit pedestrian. Pleasant, but not spectacular or particularly innovative. Banerjee does, though, employ an interesting technique in places: a photograph as background with a drawn character placed in the scene. To rather striking effect.

Banerjee's website is a bit of a disappointment but I will keep an eye out for other works by him.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Tod Wodicka, All Shall Be Well, and All Shall Be Well, and All Manner of Things Shall Be Well

I seem to have found my way to reading stories of old men at the end of their lives, stories written by younger men (some much younger if Wodicka's book jacket photo is any indication) cutting right to the bone.

Or maybe it's just what I imagine to be the bone.

Cutting nonetheless.

Another excellent book, All Shall be Well... Perhaps not as deeply, profoundly affecting as Out Stealing Horses but only, perhaps only because it is far more of a rollic at times, especially early in the book, than Stealing ever is (or tries to be). It's a bit shaking, in fact, how much fun the early chapters are, to be followed with the very moving and very difficult mid-section, when the narrator, Burt Hecker, an old man with a disfigured nose and broken family life, looks back.

It is so interesting, but the brief reviews I've read make it seem so bloodless (talk of Burt as a medieval re-enactor, folk musicians, his family lawyer, etc & et al) -- all of which are there, are a part, and a substantial part, but written out in a review sapped of all their power and play. And yet I make my way to the New York Times review of the book, one of the longer reviews, and I disagree: "the artless, wordy and underarticulated writing that makes “All Shall Be Well” such a Black Death of a chore to read"?

Really?!? Not for me.

But maybe I just have an artless, wordy, underarticulated soul...

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Per Petterson, Out Stealing Horses

Good lord, I have seen the future -- and certainly if my reaction is any measure, at least substantial echoes of the present -- and it is in Trond Sander, the narrator of Petterson's Out Stealing Horses.

It's still so fresh and, because of the power of it -- the understated power of it (is this a Scandinavian trait? I'm sure there are plenty who might ascribe it thus) -- raw... But that doesn't really do it proper justice. I actually started this book a week ago? Two? But have delayed, time and again for the past 4 or 5 days (I pick up the newspaper, I turn on the television, I fall asleep reading The New Yorker -- almost anything but pick up the book), in part because I don't think I want it to end, in part because it rubs up against so much.

Not unpleasantly. But achingly. Quietly. Like an anticipated fever.

It has won prizes and gotten laudatory reviews elsewhere -- including in the New York Times -- that can speak to the specifics far better than I. Not only is it surprisingly emotionally powerful; the characters -- lightly sketched -- are amazingly vivid; and the story -- or rather the telling of the story -- is ingeniously and masterfully structured.

And I can only hope that Trond is right, echoing his father at the close of the book, that "we do decide for ourselves when it will hurt."

Boy, oh boy, have I made some lousy decisions; but some good and proper ones too. Kiss.