Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Fates, Furies, Farrell and a Fridge

by Daddy X

Fates and Furies
by Lauren Groff

Aptly titled novel that received a lot of attention in 2015. “Fates and Furies” wound up as a NYT notable book, Amazon Best Book, and a finalist for the National Book Award.

What begins admittedly slow, offers many delights. If you aspire to be a unique stylist, you may envy how Groff spins her craft. Reminiscent of Donleavy, perhaps. But don’t be fooled by the slow start. There is a point in this novel where everything you thought you knew about the main characters and their relationship is turned on its end. The stylist disappears from one’s perception; the story rivets the reader.

The Girl On the Fridge
by Etgar Keret

One of the coolest damn covers I’ve ever seen. Just bent enough to catch my attention in a used book store. I don’t usually buy short stories (Though I just bought a collection of T. Coraghessan Boyle) but this one looked like something I’d be interested in. Some of you know I’ve done several stints as flasher editor at ERWA, so flash fiction is kinda steeped in my bones. I don’t think there’s a story here over three and a half pages. Forty-six of them.

Keret, an Israeli author, is much better known in his home country. A few stories depict the trying political and social life, where danger and hatred are a daily fact. If this were the thrust of this collection, I probably wouldn’t like it as much. Fact is that it’s just one of the myriad subjects he covers, approaching them without preconceived illusion.

Though decidedly not erotica, Keret doesn’t shy away from sex. Or from violence for that matter. What he does quite well is pack a whole lot of punch into very few words.

Reminiscent of both Kafka and our own Garceus, Keret will enlighten, shock, bewilder and enchant.  Some stories will make a reader uncomfortable, but I don’t think that would bother anyone here. ;>)

For flash fiction writers, it’s always a case of “Now that I have all these flashers, WTF do I do with them?” Finally, we have our answer. Here’s a guy who has taken flash fiction, and its presentation, to an art form.

Obviously I can’t say enough about this author. In fact, I just bought another of his books. I only hope it’s as good as, “The Girl on the Fridge”.

Studs Lonigan
by James T. Farrell

Yes, the old classic trilogy: “Young Lonigan”, “The Young Manhood of Studs Lonigan”, and “Judgment Day”.

Farrell presents, often in Proustian detail, the depressing and squalid Chicago of the early twentieth century. Predecessor to Steinbeck, Algren and Selby Jr. in approach, written in 1932 about life in the ‘teens and twenties. A long work. Again. :>) 900 pages. I do get wrapped up in those long ones.  

What comes across immediately is the blatant bigotry and racism of the times, related in the grittiest but frequently dated vernacular. The European country your relatives came from determined your place in life, where you lived, where you went to school. What jobs were available to you and your family. Where you dared to walk, and how often you got beat up if you happened around the wrong corner.

Although we have a long way to go in the bigotry realm, it’s amazing to see how the attitudes of a hundred years ago have translated to the present, and in essence haven’t changed that much. In his stark way, Farrell accomplishes what could be a timeless novel. Certainly we can relate, here in the twenty-first century.

This is a piece I’m truly reading at the moment, about halfway through the second part. If there’s much to add, maybe I’ll review the rest in another ‘What I’m Reading’ fortnight.


  1. I love your diversity, Daddy! A great sampler.

    1. They say the best writers also read a lot. Just tryin' here. :>)

      I consider myself privileged to have so many interests.

  2. You're living the life I used to think I would after retirement; reading voraciously, far and wide. Well, I also thought I'd be traveling far and wide, too. (UH oh, as an editor, I realize that "widely" would be grammatically correct, but the phrase as it stands is a familiar one, so...) Idid read voraciously in my youth, but now... Well, I don't even blame it on being a writer and editor. I blame it on the seduction of the internet, and my own weakness.

  3. Reading is much cheaper than traveling. And doesn't require such energy.

  4. Hi daddy X
    I'm intrigued by what you say about keret. I'm always a little surprised when some one compares my style to someone but i can't see my style. It's transparent to me. Makes me want to check it out.

    1. Just don't hate me when you read him. ;>) I don't think that'll happen.

  5. James T. Farrell is definitely on my TBR list, and I'm embarrassed that I haven't read any of his stuff yet. Blatant bigotry is something I've come to expect in anything written before about 1960. Groff and Keret sound interesting. You definitely have diverse taste.

    1. A lot of early 20th century writers can be sleep inducing, taking one through long, convoluted sentences, paragraphs pages long and fat, bloated prose. But there are some who stand out either in spite of this convention through rebellion, like Farrell, or because of it.

  6. I've examined Fates and Furies at the bookstore several times and have been tempted but I've sort of had the feeling I wouldn't get through it. From what you've said, it does sound like I wouldn't. But I'm glad you found it interesting and it had a cool twist!


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