Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Dark Matters 

The decade's Great American Novel?

I have trouble articulating what I like about literature. Place, character, narrative flow, clarity, the nudge nudge wink wink of the intelligent author speaking to the intelligent reader, a consistency of universe: all matter, but muddily so. I've read books that have 'em all that just can't keep my attention -- and this coming from a voracious reader, a book-a-night guy who spent much of the latenights of his childhood huddled in his afterhours bedroom doorway, hallway light spilling onto the page, illuminating bookworlds. I'm great in the dark, but I'd be a total failure in a book club.

Yeah, I read a book a night, even now. But mostly these days that means the Heinlein-esque paperback, the odd Spenser mystery. I hardly know how to find the stuff I like, so I stick to the familiar. It's rare for me to find something so engrossing I'm willing to let it stretch on for two and a half days, a world so simultaneously familiar and fantastically alluring that I can stay on track with both narrative and setting, place and pace, reading three pages here, on the toilet before supper, another half-chapter there, between on-duty study hall walkabouts.

But I know what I like, and this, the first "new" novel I've read in ages, has it all in spades. Lethem rocks. And stylistically, his work fits inside the other books I've read and liked since my daughter's birth. I seem to be discovering a more-mature genre -- Augusten Burroughs, David Eggers, Michael Chabon, Bret Easton Ellis before them, and the rest of the McSweeney's crowd now and forevermore -- as if my dark fit/flitful dreamworlds had finally matured, grown higherbrow.

Thanks to Dad, who is a bookclub type, for the recommendation and the hardcover...and for all those before, and those to come as well. A man of taste in all media is my father; I've never had a bad recommendation from him yet.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:44 AM |

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