Well, January’s over. Big names like Colm Toibin, Kurt Vonnegut ( the Tupac of 20th Century Fiction) and Charles Baxter published work to great acclaim. Now, it’s February’s turn. To kick it off, we have two major birthdays.
Born February 1st, 1902
* Langston Hughes ! If you haven’t read The Collected Poems in its entirety, and available at the UConn Co-Op, you’ve failed to appreciate a poetic genius of the 20th Century.
Born February 1st, 1918
* Muriel Spark! Spark is a largely underappreciated novelist who wrote with a scalpel-like wit. Notable works include The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Memento Mori. Her novels are deceivingly slender, lapidary, and pack one hell of a wallop. One minute you’re laughing, the next you’re squirming.
If new titles are what you are looking for, February more than delivers. These three debut novels are guaranteed to shake you out of your wintry stupor.
Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
Fecund is the adjective which best describes Russell’s debut novel. Everything grows under Russell’s tender care. This story of a multi-generational, family-owned, alligator theme park facing extinction, could be the stuff of comedy in lesser hands. Instead, Russell weaves a tale packed to bursting with rich and beautifully rendered characters, fascinating relationships, and a fantastic environment unlike any other you’ll encounter in current fiction.
The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale
The roadtrip Bruno, a precocious chimpanzee, and Lydia, a disgraced University professor/Bruno’s sometime girlfriend, go on will surely replace that one Kerouac took awhile back. Hale, a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, writes a brilliant,fast-paced, and somehow believable debut novel detailing the complexities of travel, friendship, love,passion, knowledge and performing Shakespeare.
We, The Drowned by Carsten Jensen
This one will make you skip class and/or work. Look past the gloomy title, and get the full effect of life in Marstal, a Danish seaside town. I suppose the closest you can get is reading it in the tub.The work is epic(covering literally the globe, and over 100 years) and the Marstalians are vivid and memorable. The experience of reading Jensen’s book leaves you questioning whether life on land could ever be more exciting than life at sea.
A couple tidbits:
Murakami’s much anticipated epic, 1Q84, hits stateside in October.
Brooklyn’s about to get a lot snarkier when Martin Amis moves on in.
In the meantime, a hint as to the major birthday that very appropriately falls on Groundhog Day…..
“riverrun, past Eve and Adams, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth, Castle and Environs.”