Monday, July 22, 2013

Review: "Indiscretion" by Charles Dubow

Title: Indiscretion
AuthorCharles Dubow
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Date of Publication: July 9, 2013
Pages: 400

How I Heard About It: Thanks so much to the publisher and TLC Book Tours for providing a free review copy. More info about the rest of the book blog tour can be found here.

Two Sentence Summary: A group of wealthy friends vacation in the Hamptons for the summer.  The dynamic of their social sphere begins a downward spiral when young, gorgeous Claire becomes a part of the infrastructure and sets her sights on (married) author Harry Winslow.

"He was not hard to love. And she, like so many of the young, was looking for a shortcut, an edge over the competition, always in a hurry, not yet realizing there is no benefit in speeding up the journey, that the destination is not the point but merely part of the process."


Things I Think: This is not an unfamiliar story: a perfect couple (Maddy and Harry Winslow), completely content in their marriage and revered by their peers; the unexpected entrance of a sweet young thing, who at first worships the pair as mentors but falls decidedly in love with the husband; the husband's seemingly epic struggle to resist, his ultimate failure, and the resultant fireworks of disaster when everything inevitably comes to light.

For this reason alone, I nearly failed to complete "Indiscretion." I feel like I've read this story, or seen it performed, dozens upon dozens of times. Little about Dubow's use of this classic formula made it unique from any other rendition of the age-old midlife crisis affair saga, and the unfolding of anticipated event after anticipated event occurred so slowly that sticking with this book was a struggle. 

In the last fifty pages or so, we are finally granted a left-turn from the plodding plot. But it takes so long to get to this meaty plot point, I almost didn't make it. 

The reason I hung on was Dubow's beautiful prose. His sentences are perfectly crafted, his vocabulary impeccable. Additionally, his narration choices (which continue to be compared to those of "The Great Gatsby") are a point of interest. Dubow clearly has an immense amount of technical skill, but in this case, it over-shone the novel's attempts at creativity. 

Monday, July 15, 2013

Pulitzer Winner's Newest Novella: Enon

Title: Enon
Author: Paul Harding
Publisher: Random House
Date of Publication: September 10, 2013 
Pages: 256

How I Heard About It: When my mom sent me a copy of Tinkers (which went on to win the 2010 Pulitzer Prize) in the mail one day, I had no idea how hard I was about to fall for Paul Harding. Recently Enon, to be released in September, became available for advanced review on Netgalley and I pounced. 

I inserted the key into the keyhole and opened the door. The old air fell out of the clock, dry, held in the cubic shape of the case for who knows how many years until I opened the door and it collapsed out into the contemporary atmosphere, distinct and nearly colonial for a moment and then subsumed, and I wondered how old it was, if it contained any of Simon Willard's breath.

Two Sentence Summary: Continuing the exquisite family narrative begun in Tinkers, Enon is a poetic meditation on a year of Charlie Crosby's life as he struggles through a grief that seems endless, cyclical. A violent, life-altering incident instantly destroys Charlie's family, and, left alone to make meaning of the horrific event, the protagonist's pain leads him through a surreal landscape of isolation, addiction, and hallucinatory attempts towards reconciliation.

Things I Think: The master of quietude, "indie darling" Paul Harding has written another book in which atmosphere is king. Beyond the charming but eerie setting that completely invaded my imagination and dreams for days, the mood (equal parts somber and surreal) becomes as crucial to the reading of Enon as any plot point. In essence, this meditation on grief is a one-man ballet of self-destruction. Charlie pushes on the invisible boundary between living and dead, uncertain as to which side he should inhabit.  But for a narrative that is so completely devastating, it is wrought with such beautiful prose that the overall effect renders awe in the reader. 

A poet's prose-writer, Harding's extended metaphors basically (no hyperbole) slay me.

The obsidian girl moves through the trees at night. She moves across the fairway of the golf course, near the road, by the stone wall that acts as the hood for the footlights to the stage. She is all but invisible, the girl of black glass, appearing only as a wobbly blur. She is a dark lens. Through her, the dark underpinnings of the world are visible, but they turn whoever might see them to stone, or to ice, or to salt, or to marsh grass. 

This is literary fiction at its finest. Paul Harding, I will forever read anything you ever write. 

And I'm just now realizing the last 3 books I've reviewed have been 5's, which is strange for me but also makes me aware of the fact that I'm getting better at "choosing wisely."