I am reading The New York Trilogy now, and I’m quite impressed. I’m only a few chapters in, but it looks promising. Its weirder than I thought it was going to be (and this is a good thing). Auster is an author I’ve heard both good and bad things about. He’s either worshipped like some genius Word-God or dismissed as a cutesy-pie. In situations like this I usually find myself on the side of the skeptics, so when I decided to read this book (or these books, I guess) I was prepared to wade through some tripe. I am pleasantly surprised thus far!
Any Auster fans out there? Any dectractors?
I finished Soul Resin in one sitting yesterday, and while I think it should have been longer and more fleshed out (Clouet’s motive for manipulating Mills Loomis Mills was unclear to me, for example), it is a solid first novel. I’m pretty much in agreement with Badger. While it dealt with the dead, blood, doom, and disaster, I would hesitate to call it a “horror novel”. I’d also respectfully disagree with the back blurb, which calls the book a “southern gothic”. I read it as more of an odd love story. The digressions on racial politics in Reconstruction-era New Orleans were very interesting, and I came away from the book wanting to read more about Creole culture. Maybe I’ll track down some George Washington Cable…
The always interesting Words Without Borders Blog has a series of posts on the recent London Book Fair, one of which mentioned Things in the Night, a novel by Estonian author Mati Unt. It looks good. I don’t think I’ve ever read any Baltic Lit…
I mention it because getting turned onto good books from far-flung corners of the world is one of the best things that can happen to a guy. I have tried to write about things that interest me on this blog in the hopes that someone will stumble upon something that they are interested in and wouldn’t have heard of otherwise. For me, literature in translation is a constant source of excitement and edification. Major thanks to the blogs that consistently cover it (many of which are right over there in our sidebar)!
From the Booklist review of Unt’s novel:
Originally published in the author’s native Estonia in 1990, this novel has been praised as demonstrating its author’s mastery of postmodern literary form, fracturing and recombining werewolf tales and other traditional Estonian tropes into an ironic, multivocal sprawl through subjectivity itself. Using the concept of electricity as its primary source of metaphor and tension, Unt sketches a frozen natural landscape that swells with energy and arcs toward entropy when a power outage threatens the survival of medieval Tallinn. The city avoids natural disaster only through the efforts of the spiritually (and politically) charged Lennart (modeled after real-life Lennart Meri, who would become Estonia’s first post-Soviet president two years after this book’s initial publication). Given such overt political commentary and the book’s timing at the fall of the Soviet Union, readers unfamiliar with Estonian literary tropes or impatient with maximalist prose may be tempted to dismiss this book as a post-Communist period piece. Those willing to make the effort will be rewarded with a brilliant and poignant novel about nature and loss.
See also the Village Voice review.