Pete Hamill has very nice things to say about City of Bohane, a book he describes as resembling "an Icelandic saga welded to a ballad of the American West, although the location is in a place somewhere in Ireland, around the year 2053." This is "an extraordinary first novel," he continues, "full of marvels. They are all literary marvels, of course: marvels of language, invention, surprise. Savage brutality is here, but so is laughter. And humanity. And the abiding ache of tragedy." It's a novel where the place is a character, too-- a western channeled through, maybe, Dickens. But Hammill reminds us, "none of it is real, yet all of it feels true. This powerful, exuberant fiction is as true as the Macondo of Gabriel GarcÃa MÃ¡rquez, the Yoknapatawpha County of William Faulkner and, in a different way, even the Broadway of Damon Runyon. Those places were not real. The stories remain true."
Three cheers for Cheryl Strayed. A few of us had the pleasure of having lunch with her a couple weeks ago, and if she'd told us she was leaving to go hike the Pacific Coast Trail again, I think we would have followed. Reviewer Dani Shapiro shares that sentiment. After describing the laundry list of items that Strayed stuffed into her new backpack before departing for the PCT, Shapiro writes, "People with any hiking experience (I am not one) will know that this is the backpack of a rank amateur, that setting out on a 1,100-mile trek from the Mojave Desert to the Cascades outfitted in brand-new hiking boots "” a size too small, it turned out "” and with 24.5 pounds of water in a dromedary bag is a recipe for disaster. Fortunately for the reader, it's also a recipe for a spectacular book. Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail is at once a breathtaking adventure tale and a profound meditation on the nature of grief and survival.
Everyone knows the world is falling apart. In this Times review, Jon Gertner cites tsunamis, nuclear meltdown, melting ice caps, acidifying oceans, desertification, dying fish, rising carbon emissions, and stalled economic growth. Enter Peter H. Diamandis, Silicon Valley entrepreneur and author of Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think. This book is optimistic the way Seattle is rainy, which is to say "very much so." Gertner writes that Diamandis's "thesis rests on a four-legged stool. The first idea is that our technologies in computing, energy, medicine and a host of other areas are improving at such an exponential rate that they will soon enable breakthroughs we now barely think possible. Second, these technologies have empowered do-it-yourself innovators to achieve startling advances "” in vehicle engineering, medical care and even synthetic biology "” with scant resources and little manpower, so we can stop depending on big corporations or national laboratories. Third, technology has created a generation of techno-philanthropists (think Bill Gates) who are pouring their billions into solving seemingly intractable problems like hunger and disease. And finally, we have what Diamandis calls 'the rising billion.' These are the world's poor, who are now (thanks again to technology) able to lessen their burdens in profound ways. 'For the first time ever,' Diamandis says, 'the rising billion will have the remarkable power to identify, solve and implement their own abundance solutions.'" If your outlook is more Yellow Brick Road than The Road-- or you wish it was-- this is the book to read.
Brothers (and Me): A Memoir of Loving and Giving by journalist Donna Britt, is "the bold and honest story of the tragedy at the center of her adult life. Britt's brother Darrell, a 26-year-old African American man with no criminal record and no history of mental illness, was killed by the police, who alleged that he had jumped out of the bushes and threatened them while waving a chain and wearing an aluminum pot on his head." Reviewer Danielle Evans ties the book to the "tragic timeliness" of the Trayvon Martin shooting, but then points out that "the ultimate tragedy may be the timelessness of this narrative "” the sense that our national culture still codes black men as aggressive and suspicious, and that so often when that results in death, black male life is treated as disposable "” as though premature death is ordinary, perhaps even inevitable, and not an occasion that requires explanation or change."
NPR has an interview with Christopher Moore, author of Sacre Bleu: A Comedy d'Art. When asked to describe his book, Moore says, in part, "I'd talk about it being a book about the color blue, and about solving the murder of Vincent van Gogh and the sort of mystical quality of making art. And it's funny."
The New York Review of Books asks, Do we need stories?
Book Riot points out five books to look forward to this Fall.
Following up his wonderful book, Manhattan Unfurled, author and artist Matteo Pericoli has created London Unfurled, which went on sale April 1st. Brain Pickings has a story about it. (The videos are good.)
No writer created more of a stir last week than Teju Cole, whose tweets got people up in arms.
We put this up on Facebook last week, but it's worth sharing here. It's a fun feature on 15 writers' bedrooms.