Greyson Todd is the most fully-realized fictional character I’ve come across in a while. The terrible exuberance of his mania and the devastation of his depressive episodes are perfectly rendered. Garey doesn’t shy away from the depths of her character’s pain, but scenes that could easily become gratuitous in lesser hands are rendered with restraint and grace. She excels at leading us down the rabbit hole when Todd slips from logic into paranoia.
When I think of all the books I read and loved this year — and there have been so many — I think the one I found most striking was Patrick DeWitt’s The Sisters Brothers. It was the sheer originality of the thing, the absolutely unique style and voice. It might fairly be described as a western for people who think they don’t like westerns.
“Before he was Harry Houdini he was Erik Weisz, born in Budapest in 1874, son of a rabbi.”
- A Younger, Stranger America: On Harry Houdini’s The Right Way to Do Wrong by Emily St. John Mandel
This is what gets lost in the hand-wringing over the mergers and rumors-of-mergers between America’s Big Six (or Big Five?) publishing houses: there are more than six publishers in this country. There are countless presses that continue, every year, to publish great work. They range from the large and very well-established — W.W. Norton and Grove/Atlantic — all the way down to the micro-presses.
Somewhere inbetween is Melville House, which for these past few years has been producing, alongside new offerings, a delightful line called The Neversink Library.
This is the kind of book that gets described as “a delightful romp” in press materials, and that’s not an inaccurate description of a book that functions beautifully as both send-up of high society and globe-spanning adventure story, but the novel has a deathly serious core.
“Imagine if Bertie Wooster’s considerably more intelligent but equally fussy older brother had wandered by accident into a John LeCarre novel. The result might look something like Maurice DeKobra’s exquisite The Madonna of the Sleeping Cars”
- Back in the USSR by Emily St. John Mandel
Emily St. John Mandel is a crime novelist, and she is a Canadian who now makes her home in New York. I asked her to come along to give me a pair of non-male, non-Midwestern eyes, and we step back into a corner of the big banquet hall, near the concession stand, and scan the room, thinking that there must be an exception. I would guess there are at least 250 people in attendance. But she’s right. Neither of us can find a single non-Caucasian.”
Notes From The Center: The Lakemoor Gun Show by Patrick Somerville
I know a lot of writers, which means there are days when my social media feeds are clogged with relentless self-promotion. Everyone’s written a book, and everyone wants you to buy it.
This is a delicate point, because we do need to sell our books. Selling books is how we make our living, or at least part of our living. But there are days when I wish we could all just take a deep breath in the midst of all the hustle and remember what matters, because my personal opinion is that what matters the most is the work, not the sales numbers.
What matters is good writing, what matters is that there are people who love books enough to press them into your hands in far-off cities. We are here for the books, but I think it’s easy to get distracted by our longing for success and forget this.