I am FINALLY getting to The Morning News‘ 2010 Tournament of Books short list, after a spate of book group and book-group-book related reading. My hope is to read twelve of the sixteen*. There’s little possibility of me accomplishing all 12 by March 1, when the tourney begins. But darn it, I’m going to try.
First up was Wells Towers’ brief and devastating story collection Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned. No false advertising there; these are bleak, brutal stories. The central characters, young and old, male and female, are struggling to make meaning in their lives, even as any hope flickers and dies. Take the opening paragraph:
Bob Munroe woke up on his face. His jaw hurt and morning birds were yelling and there was real discomfort in his underpants. He’d come in late, his spine throbbing from the bus ride down, and he had stretched out on the floor with a late dinner of two bricks of saltines. Now cracker bits were all over him–under his bare chest, stuck in the sweaty creases of his elbows and his neck, and the biggest and worst of them he could feel lodged deep into his buttock crack, like a flint arrowhead somebody had shot in there.
The writing is spare and sharp, the characters easy to know, the humor dark and fleeting. If you’re looking for a brief, beautifully written collection of ugly stories, this is for you. If you’re feeling fragile? Best stay away.
*I hope to read:
The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood
The Anthologist, by Nicholson Baker
Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth, by Apostolos Doxiadis
The Book of Night Women, by Marlon James
The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver
Big Machine, by Victor Lavalle
Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCann
Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel
A Gate at the Stairs, by Lorrie Moore
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, by Wells Tower
Lowboy, by John Wray
And am probably not going to try for these, as their descriptions and reviews don’t excite me:
Fever Chart, by Bill Cotter
Miles from Nowhere, by Nami Mun
That Old Cape Magic, by Richard Russo
Burnt Shadows, by Kamila Shamsie