Sunday, September 14, 2008

currently reading

~ The Annunciations of Hank Meyerson, Mama's Boy and Scholar (Scott Muskin)
I'm about 125 pages into this first novel, written by a local writer, to be published in spring 2009. My book group is reading the advanced reading copy for discussion next month, and the author will attend the meeting! Most of the book group members are (or were) publisher's reps or booksellers, local authors often attend. Lorna Landvik and Charles Baxter are just a few authors who have made an appearance. A couple book group members have an additional connection to Muskin (I don't feel as if I'm on a first name basis with him, yet), and apparently he asked to attend. That is some of the back story. Here's more: Muskin entered this novel in the Parthenon Prize for Fiction, and as the inaugural winner, is having his book published by Hooded Friar Press, the prize's sponsor and a champion of new writers.

The jacket copy describes a "story of love, loss, and ultimately, redemption," which certainly wouldn't sell me if I'd found this book browsing in a bookstore. But, Hank is quite a character, and his journey, so far, is a hoot. In the first section, Hank's marriage is falling apart. He's not recovering from his wife's affair. And, while she's on a business trip, Hank embarks on a fling of his own. With his sister-in-law. Before Hank's brother can learn of the infidelity, Hank leaves town, which is where I've left off.

The novel, on a whole, is very promising. I'm looking for comparisons, because that's what we do when we're trying to recommend a title, and so far I'm coming up with Clyde Edgerton and a younger, Midwestern Richard Russo. But I'd also say that Muskin's voice is pretty unique, making him far from derivative if you're looking for fiction that's wholly new.

~ The Man Who Ate the World (Jay Rayner)
A few years ago, I first heard about the British food writer Jay Rayner on the popular food blog, Chez Pim. I checked out his novel Eating Crow upward for four or five times, but was never able to crack the spine. This sometimes happens. Right book, wrong time. His latest book, The Man Who Ate the World, has given me another opportunity to read Rayner, as he searches the world for the perfect meal. Rayner has a great voice, exploring restaurants, food, chefs, and his own position as a paid gourmand. So far, he has visited Las Vegas, Moscow, and Dubai. With just over half of the book remaining to be read, my copy of the book is due back to the library tomorrow. I fantasize about pulling an all-nighter to finish it.

~ Thirty-Three Teeth (Colin Cotterill)
John and I recently took a road trip to Door County, Wisconsin, a six-hour drive from our home in St. Paul. No kids. And, as is our want when we make a long drive, I started reading aloud a book to my husband, the driver. Set in Laos (1977), our sleuth, Dr. Siri Paiboun, is a coroner who has recently discovered that he has psychic abilities. There are two mysteries in this novel, and I suspect they will intertwine, but I can't be certain yet. We still have quite a bit to read. I love a mystery where you have enough information to form a theory, even if it's way off base. Ultimately, the mystery is pretty character-driven: Siri's friends and coworkers populate the story. Also, it's a smart, funny, quick, and totally rewarding read. Highly recommended.

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