Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Jonathan Evison's 2010 Favorites

Jonathan Evison lives on an island in the Puget Sound with 8 rabbits, 4 dogs, 1 wife and 1 son. He writes and drinks beer in the woods in his father's old mobile home wearing his grandfathers fedora. He believes in sweatpants, family, and quality fiction writing. He is the author of All About Lulu and the upcoming West of Here (hitting the stores mid January 2011). His third book, finished but still mysterious, is coming out in 2012.

2010 releases I loved, which fall all over the literary map:

Holy Water
Henry Tuhoe is the quintessential twenty-first-century man. He has a vague, well-compensated job working for a multinational conglomerate—but everyone around him is getting laid off as the company outsources everything it can to third-world countries.

He has a beautiful wife—his college sweetheart—and an idyllic new home in the leafy suburbs, complete with pool. But his wife won’t let him touch her, even though she demanded he get a vasectomy; he’s seriously over leveraged on the mortgage; and no matter what chemicals he tries the pool remains a corpse-like shade of ghastly green.

Then Henry’s boss offers him a choice: go to the tiny, magical, about-to-be-globalized Kingdom of Galado to oversee the launch of a new customer-service call center for a boutique bottled water company the conglomerate has just acquired, or lose the job with no severance. Henry takes the transfer, more out of fecklessness than a sense of adventure.

In Galado, a land both spiritual and corrupt, Henry wrestles with first-world moral conundrums, the life he left behind, the attention of a steroid-abusing, megalomaniacal monarch, and a woman intent on redeeming both his soul and her country. The result is a riveting piece of fiction of and for our times, blackly satirical, moving, and profound.

The Wilding
Echo Canyon is a disappearing pocket of wilderness outside of Bend, Oregon, and the site of conflicting memories for Justin Caves and his father, Paul. It’s now slated for redevelopment as a golfing resort. When Paul suggests one last hunting trip, Justin accepts, hoping to get things right with his father this time, and agrees to bring his son, Graham, along.

As the weekend unfolds, Justin is pushed to the limit by the reckless taunting of his father, the physical demands of the terrain, and the menacing evidence of the hovering presence of bear. All the while, he remembers the promise he made to his skeptical wife: to keep their son safe.

Benjamin Percy, a writer whose work Dan Chaon called “bighearted and drunk and dangerous,” shows his mastery of narrative suspense as the novel builds to its surprising climax. The Wilding shines unexpected light on our shifting relationship with nature and family in contemporary society.

Half a Life
Strauss shares the true story of how one high school outing in his father's Oldsmobile resulted in the tragic death of a young girl, and the beginning of a different, darker life for the author. He delves deep into the meaning and consequences of that fateful, or possibly fateless, day.

Catherine and Oliver, young wife and older entrepreneurial husband, are negotiating their difference in age and a plethora of well-concealed secrets. Oliver, now in his sixties, is a serial adulterer and has just fallen giddily in love yet again. Catherine, seemingly placid and content, has ghosts of a past she scarcely remembers. When Catherine's long-forgotten high school friend dies and leaves Catherine the guardian of her teenage daughter, that past comes rushing back. As Oliver manages his new love, and Catherine her new charge and darker past, local news reports turn up the volume on a serial killer who has reappeared after years of quiet.In a time of hauntings and new revelations, Nelson's characters grapple with their public and private obligations, continually choosing between the suppression or indulgence of wild desires. Which way they turn, and what balance they find, may only be determined by those who love them most.

The Imperfectionists

One of most acclaimed books of the year, Tom Rachman’s debut novel follows the topsy-turvy private lives of the reporters and editors of an English-language newspaper in Rome.

Need a new job? Does the world need another superhero? You see the connection, don't you? If you had the chance to save lives...could you handle the adventure? The pressure, the risk, the grotesque, the insane? Most of all, could you handle your humanity? Update your resume, 'cause here we go. Either stick with being sucked down further into your life, or earn the lift-off of the elite. Aaron Dietz's debut novel moves with an experimental edge into America's heroic mythology. Structured as a novel-length job application for a superhero agency, Dietz uses his iron touch to explore themes that go far deeper than the swashbuckling world of comics and costumes. It's a story about commitment, ability, bureaucracy, possibility, crisis, and heartbreak. Super.

An Dantomine Eerly
As the Irish-American poet Dallin lay dying he recalls the surreal geography and traumatic events that lead to his end. An absence in a wind-beaten house suggests a past but somehow still-looming tragedy; vacancy fills a ghostly barroom and the campus of a condemned university; city streets and desolated forests are populated by no one except the formulations of Dallin’s own mind. The ailed poet and his beautiful, haunting wife AƬsling flee an obscure political persecution that culminates in her planned murder. The impact of her death afflicts Dallin in ways he cannot comprehend and spirals him into his meeting with the mythic celestial escort, An Dantomine Eerly.

An Dantomine Eerly is fine experimental writing, using narrative techniques, dream-world symbolism, and a poetic style of prose that takes up John Banville’s admittance “to blend poetry and fiction into some new form.” The novel itself is a re-conception of the 17th century Irish poetic form of the aisling, meaning “dream vision” or “vision poem.” As Dallin confronts his moment of death, the book assembles itself as a collage of the affinities, falsehoods, and absurdities of memory and reality.

Comparisons to pre-discovery Chuck Palahnuik (Fight Club) and early David Foster Wallace (The Broom Of The System) have been made, as well as the influence of older, experimental works. The result is a stylized exploration of the infinite world through the microscope of Middleton’s ill-fated narrator, and above all, a promising debut.

The Lambs of Men

Returning from the horrors of the First World War to recruit volunteers in his remote Appalachian home, Marine Sergeant Hiram Tobit finds the country changed. His mother has committed suicide, dredging up old resentments between Hiram and his father, Sloane. When a gruesome act of violence stuns the insular mountain community, father and son must journey together to see justice carried out while coming to terms with a deeply troubled family history.

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