Winter Books

Oh that Michael Chabon. Just when you think you’re over him, that his brilliant density has begun to wear a bit thin, he turns in a masterpiece like Moonglow and you fall in love all over again. I have to admit I didn’t love Telegraph Avenue, but I figured it was my fault. I mean it’s Chabon, right? The man who takes more joy in language than any other living writer.

Chabon_moonglowAll that Chabon magic is here in Moonglow, his new novel, inspired by his grandfather’s deathbed stories about love and war and the Space Race and adventure and model rockets and much, much more. Even in the seemingly off-hand moments as when he describes “a scrum kicked up around the table of dairy appetizers” or “a soft gray cloud of Dilaudid” or “a blonde pompadour behind a motocross magazine,” this is Chabon writing at the top of his game. I mean, how much better can he get? And if you’ve ever spent time inside a Florida retirement community, Chabon nails it.

Personal, compassionate, exuberant, rich in emotional detail, and very funny, Moonglow earns Michael Chabon the honor of his very own adjective, Chabonesque, right up there with all the greats. Yup, this is a rave.

Wood_weatheringThe wet and cold seep into your bones as you read Lucy Wood’s debut novel Weathering, the story of a woman who moves into her recently deceased mother’s crumbling, remote house with her young daughter.

Weathering has a dreamlike, luminous quality while staying rooted in character and story. The dead mother’s spirit haunts the book as does the river outside the house, a character of its own as is the house itself.

Somehow, in a fairly slight novel, Wood manages to describe the inner lives of three generations of women as well as the weight of place and family.

Wood is a gorgeous, poetic writer, who pushes against the conventions of language, event inventing words (dimpsy, mizzle) that we intuitively understand. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

ONeill_lonelyThe Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill has the snowflakes and clown and dancing bears of a conventional fairy tale, but also heroin and mobsters and prostitutes and a sadistic nymphomaniacal nun. On the very first page a twelve-year-old girl’s older cousin, under the guise of a medical exam, says he has to “stick his penis inside her to test her internal temperature.” The result is one of two babies abandoned in a Montreal orphanage whose intertwining stories make up this novel.

Pierrot is a piano prodigy, Rose is gifted in dance and comedy and they each make their way through O’Neill’s magical world, set in the Great Depression, destined to meet again and fulfill their fates. The Lonely Hearts Hotel is a live wire act of sorts, complete with radicalized chorus girls and brooding clowns but also grinding poverty and despair.

I’m grateful to this novel for seeing me through an extreme case of jet lag. I’m not certain how or why it works; the only word I can summon up is enchanting.

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