The Books of October

1. Richard Powers’ The Echo Maker is an outstanding and thought-provoking new novel. I have a feeling I’ll be posting about this book a few times in the weeks to come here, so I’m going to save my energy now and just point to the first and second installments of a five-day roundtable discussion organized by Ed Champion to discuss this book. I took part in this discussion (and we were all psyched when Richard Powers himself showed up to comment on our comments at the end of the email exchange). The roundtable will be running at Ed’s site all week, and I hope you’ll check it out (and give the book a try yourself). More later on this …

2. I have a feeling I’ll be talking about Sam Savage’s wonderful first novel Firmin a lot here too. This fable about a bookstore rat is the Litblog Co-op’s new READ THIS! selection, and it’s a damn good choice. I love this book. It’s a much shorter and looser read than Richard Powers’ brainy Echo Maker, and I recommend that you consume both in combination: Echo Maker for dinner, Firmin for dessert.

3. Richard Ford has a new book out too, The Lay of the Land, his third novel about a ponderous adult male named Frank Bascombe. I’ve read The Sportswriter, the first novel in this series, and I tried to love it but ended up struggling to turn the pages. Ford’s an undoubtedly smart and confident novelist, but his style is a bit dry and plain for my tastes. I may give him another shot with this new one, though.

4. I’m not impressed with Stephen Metcalf’s Charles Frazier-bashing at Slate. I started the new book and didn’t love the first two pages, but I liked Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain enough to know that this author wouldn’t serve us up a complete turkey for a follow-up. I’m also guessing that Metcalf wouldn’t have massacred a good writer like Frazier if Frazier hadn’t famously gotten paid a lot of money for this book, and I don’t think that’s fair. This topic will have to wait too — I’ve got to finish a couple other books before I’ll have time to get back to the new Frazier. But I’ll let you know what happens once I do.

5. I interviewed Poe Shadow and Dante Club author Matthew Pearl here a couple of months ago, and I’m now looking forward to meeting him in person at a special Poe-themed event at New York University tonight (Tuesday, October 17). Pearl will be sharing the stage with Louis Bayard, author of Pale Blue Eyes.

3 Responses

  1. the echo makeri just read
    the echo maker

    i just read about the echo maker a few days ago and thought that this sounded like a book i’d want to read. the german translation just came out (only hardcover as of now, though) and i am really curious.

  2. Panta, I think you will like
    Panta, I think you will like this book. I’m really interested to hear how it translates into German — not only because of the linguistic differences, but also because it’s very much an “American” novel with a vivid depiction of life in modern Nebraska — meat packers, health care workers, environmentalists. I wonder how it will read so far away.

  3. from tom sawyer to on the
    from tom sawyer to on the road to white noise… they are all very much “american novels”, yet they translated without any problems (at least for me); so i don’t worry about that.

    what i am curious about is how powers approaches the subjects of individuality and identitiy, of memory and perception in this book.
    if it keeps the promise the review i’ve read made, i’m pretty sure i will like it.

    we’ll see! and if i ever get a chance to read the english original along with the translation, i’ll let you know about the way it translated – linguistically and culturally.

    first thing for me, though, will be to decide if i’m going to buy a hardcover book or not….

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