Vacation Writing: Friday Fiction Feature

The vacation draws to a close… Thank you for joining us on the shores of Dale Hollow Lake! For today’s Friday Feature, I will be honoring some titles recommended by family members (in the spirit of vacation togetherness). Some are new. Some are old. Some are classics. All are worthwhile. Followed by a list of new releases–and a call for recommendations–I present: good summer reading.

According to my brother, Joe, native Kentuckian Wendell Berry’s JAYBER CROW gives you “a perspective on a life well-lived.” For thirty-nine years Berry has brought us stories and has been the winner of numerous literary awards. Jayber Crow is the story of a man’s love for his community and his abiding and unrequited love for Mattie Chatham, “a good woman who had too early made one bad mistake”. Sent to an orphanage at the age of ten, Jayber grows up knowing of loneliness and want, and learns how to be a watchful observer of human goodness and frailty. With the flood of 1937 he returns to his native Port William to become the town’s barber. Slowly, patiently, the observer becomes participant.”This is a book about Heaven”, writes Jayber, “but I must say too that it has been a close call.”

An excellent story for children and one that I remember from my own youth, Jane Langton’s THE FLEDGLING gives us an interesting look at nature and possibility. So when her stepcousins Eleanor and Eddy tell her that she can’t fly, Georgie doesn’t get discouraged — she just tries harder She feels a peculiar lightness when she leaps from the top of the staircase, and is even more certain of her seemingly impossible ability when she jumps from the porch and soars to the rooftop before landing safely on the ground. And now that a mysterious Canada goose is visiting Georgie’s window on a nightly basis, the Hall family begins to wonder just what Georgie is capable of….

I purchased Barbara Cooney’s MISS RUMPHIUS while on a trip to Maine. My brother and his wife were about to have their first child, Nicholas. I loved the wonderful images, and the story, too–Miss Rumphius (the aunt of the narrator) is looking for purpose in life, and a way to make the world more beautiful. Interestingly enough, the book’s patron saint (on the inside leaf) is St. Nicholas. A perfect choice (though accidental) for my nephew!

G. K. Chesterton’s THE MAN WHO WAS THURSDAY is a psychological thriller that centers on seven anarchists in turn-of-the-century London who call themselves by the names of the days of the week. Chesterton explores the meanings of their disguised identities in what is a fascinating mystery and, ultimately, a spellbinding allegory. As Jonathan Lethem remarks in his Introduction, The real characters are the ideas. Chesterton’s nutty agenda is really quite simple: to expose moral relativism and parlor nihilism for the devils he believes them to be. This wouldn’t be interesting at all, though, if he didn’t also show such passion for giving the devil his due. He animates the forces of chaos and anarchy with every ounce of imaginative verve and rhetorical force in his body.

Friend, colleague and independent bookseller Chris Livingston (The Bookshelf, Winona, MN) recommended this book to my husband, Mark. He read it with excited interest (often in airports, between cities). Richard Ford’s CANADA opens in 1960 in Great Falls, Mont., a frontier town Ford has written about before, most notably in his affecting and largely underrated 1990 novel “Wildlife,” which begins with this: “In the fall of 1960, when I was 16 and my father was for a time not working, my mother met a man named Warren Miller and fell in love with him.” All that follows is told from the point of view of Joe Brinson, an older narrator looking back on the 16-year-old boy he’d been when the fragile equilibrium at his family’s center was lost.

NEW YA RELEASES: For more information, please visit STRANGE CHEMISTRY.

1) Changeling – Philippa Gregory

2) Hemlock – Kathleen Peacock

3) Railsea – China Miéville

4) Endure – Carrie Jones

5) Black Heart Blue – Louisa Reid

6) The Girl in the Clockwork Collar – Kady Cross

7) Legacy – Jenna Burtenshaw

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

Next week we will be talking to David Bain, author of Gray Lake. Until then, please send along your Friday recommendations!

2 Replies to “Vacation Writing: Friday Fiction Feature”

  1. Inspired by yours, can I add my recommendations? I recommend the Robber Hotzenplotz trilogy (first volume published in German in 1962; English translation 1974), by Otfried Preussler. Reading Hotzenplotz 3 in two-chapter installments to a five-year old at the moment. Preussler also wrote some interesting books for young adults. Krabat is excellent (and definitely not suitable for five-year olds). Read this review by Erin Horáková: http://www.strangehorizons.com/reviews/2012/05/krabat_by_otfri.shtml

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