Mini-Reviews (and recommendations) of what I’ve been reading:
I keep returning to Carlos Castaneda’s words in The Teachings of Don Juan about the ‘Assemblage Point,’ the place where all our information about the world is gathered. Located somewhere in our chest, the point serves as a sort of eighth chakra, processing and filtering all our perceptions. Of course, a neurologist might say that the brain does that work and the idea of the point being in our chest is an illusion. I don’t know. I’ve always thought that Castaneda’s ‘assemblage point’ was nothing more or less than what we think of as ‘point of view.’ MM Kent 2020
Now that I write fiction, naturally I’m concerned with POV, so when I encounter something written from a unique or well-executed point of view, I take notice. For what it’s worth, I have these books to recommend:
Labor Day by Joyce Maynard, is written in the POV of a kid who, in a long weekend, experiences initiation into an adult world. Faced with deceit in a variety of forms, and a mother who has been damaged, he has to find his own truth. With a light touch, the author convincingly evokes the adolescent male psyche, and moves it through a significant rite of passage.
In The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, we are treated to a ride on French waterways and a survey of Western (not cowboy) Literature. Who thinks of books as medicine? Our hero, the Literary Apothecary does. But can he diagnose and prescribe a cure for his own ailment? The antithesis of a ‘thriller,’ this book is designed for savoring. It addresses the quality of life, not quantity, and the nature of opportunity.
Woman With a Blue Pencil by Gordon McAlpine is an honest-to-goodness post-modern novel which aspires to weave three narrative threads into one satisfying braid. Notable is the author’s treatment of the relationship between an author and his extremely meddlesome editor. This book has it all. Humor. Pathos. Yearning. Intellectual stimulation. Polyculturalism. Political poignancy.
C.D. Rose’s Who’s Who When Everyone is Someone Else? gets five stars for degree of difficulty and four point five for execution. How many authors provide an experience which makes the reader privy to the act of creative writing?
How many literature profs agonize about what to include in the syllabus? How many answer that question by writing ten novels? Rose’s protagonist allows us to accompany him, as though at his elbow, while he blunders through a semester as a visiting instructor in an amorphous university. The excerpts from the mythical books he creates are so tantalizing, the reader will mourn the fact that the volume in question has no earthly substance and can be found in no library, whether real or virtual.
I read The Signature of all Things by Elizabeth Gilbert because I found it on a list of ‘upmarket’ fiction and was curious what the term meant. Among other things, the book illustrates the way an atypical and somewhat unappealing person can manage to lead a fulfilling and productive life. Naturally this theme appeals to a wide audience, and I suppose that qualifies the book to move ‘up’ in the market, sales-wise. It also helps that the reader is able to share in the yearnings and rewards of the protagonist, reaching the end feeling satisfied and enlightened.
Enjoy Your Reading!