Crime, Sci-Fi, Sports, and Historical Fiction–Business as Usual
Posted by: Keir Graff
It’s been an interesting few of weeks of book reviewing. First, I did a bunch of stuff for the May 1 Mystery Gazetteer: The Museum of Dr. Moses, by Joyce Carol Oates (Harcourt); Mr. Dixon Disappears, by Ian Sansom (Harper); The Follower, by Jason Starr (St. Martin’s); Chain of Evidence, by Gary Disher (Soho), and three freshly reprinted novels by David Goodis. The Oates was awfully good, the Sansom a bit of a letdown, the Starr was hard to finish, and the Disher was hard to put down. The Goodis books, which I incorporated into a feature called “The Dark World of David Goodis,” were a treat.
Then, I read Kurt Wenzel’s Exposure (Little, Brown), which, although it has trace elements of crime fiction–think of a private dick in a Philip K. Dick novel–has more in common with Chuck Palahniuk, Michael Tolkin, and J. G. Ballard. Actually, it had so many elements in it that it was one of the hardest reviews I’ve written. All I needed was twice as many words as we’re usually allowed (175) and it would have been a breeze. Very imaginative, very fun, but ultimately a little bit lightweight.
Then I read Maradona (Skyhorse, dist. by Sterling), the as-told-to autobiography of soccer’s most exciting and most mercurial star. If you think sports biographies are mostly full of cliches and platitudes about good sportsmanship, trust me, this one ain’t. This is more like getting cornered in a bar by a cokehead. But despite that analogy, I liked it a lot.
And now I’m reading Deirdre McNamer’s Red Rover (Viking), a poetic, layered work, half historical fiction, set in Montana. I usually hate comparing books to movies, but in the spirit of the Michael Tolkin reference above, I’m going to go ahead and say that Red Rover is Altmanesque. I’m torn between loving the beauty of the writing and longing for a bit more linear plotting, but it’s really a fine book. If you like impressionism and Ivan Doig, you’ll probably like this, too.
Next up? Robert Walser’s The Assistant (New Directions), first published in 1908 and now available in English for the very first time.