20 May 2011

It's Friday and I have a list.

I just finished Don Delillo's Point Omega. It's a thin little book, so it wouldn't take anyone too long to read, but it's one of the more beautiful books I've read in a while. It's a novel about narrative, language, the truth, and alienation. These are all connected to one another. The visual narrative , the use of language to create narratives that obscure the truth, our alienation depending on narrative perspective and the stories we tell ourselves. It's a good candidate for inclusion in a future course.

Delillo's book was the first one on my list of post-semester reading. The second one will be to finish (finally) a novel I started last year but had to shelve because I was buried in reading and writing. That novel is Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez. I'm halfway through it. Sure it was written in this century, but it goes back to the antebellum years to investigate one of the points of slavery that often gets lost in either a focus on the physical brutality and dehumanization of the system at large or the courageous stories of resistance and rebellion, which isn't to say that Wench is devoid of these events or issues. However, the focus is on the practice of well-to-do slavers to maintain slave mistresses and to take them on "vacation" as it were. As the resort in question is in a northern "free" state, the novel also raises the issue of the polite collusion of the North in the continuation of slavery. This novel is not a "see how well some slaves were treated" apology such as you would get from Margaret Mitchell; it's a serious depiction of the compromises, sacrifices, and dehumanization that attends even the "favored" slaves.

Behind that book, I have Brock Clarke's latest queued up: Exley. I'm looking forward to reading this one mainly because I find Clarke's voice so intriguing. He writes unlikeable characters in very compelling ways. Sam Pulsifer, the narrator of An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England, is a perfect example of his ability to create the unlikeable but still interesting character that you continue to listen to despite your dislike.

So my list so far:
1. Wench by Perkins-Valdez
2. Exley by Clarke

With any luck, I'll get through these before summer classes start and/or inundate me, and then I'll be able to squeeze in another novel between grading and reading for the summer course.

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