In Praise of the New 

Louise Pfanner shares her latest discoveries.

March 2017

Gleebooks Bookshop - Wednesday, February 22, 2017

In Praise of the New

Lucky me, I’ve been having a reading binge, and have read some really good books—here are just three of them.

Magpie Murders ($33) is a clever, very entertaining book within a book. An editor is reading a manuscript by a famous, and recently murdered, author, but the last pages are missing. The book is full of allusions to the murder mystery genre, with lots of cryptic hints along the way, creating a puzzle within a puzzle. Anthony Horowitz is a hugely prolific writer of books and television, and in Magpie Murders he has written a very literary, filmic book that is extremely enjoyable. There are lots of references to real life writers, and the publishing industry (currently a popular and rich seam for novel writers), which keep the book from becoming like a plot of Midsomer Murders.

Less satisfying in conclusion, but still a terrific book, is Idaho ($33) by Emily Ruskovich. This is an extraordinary first novel, beautifully written and at first deeply compelling. A small family are chopping wood in the forest near their Idaho cabin, when a horrific crime takes place —committed by one of the parents. The crime happens within the first few pages, and the rest of the novel goes back and forth in time, from the different perspectives of the characters. Idaho is a very dark, disturbing book, full of red herrings, and the reader really wants to know why the crime happened. What starts as a mystery turns into an elegy, and the reader won’t be satisfied by a tidy conclusion. Comparisons may not be helpful, but I was taken back to the early books of Barbara Kingsolver and Jane Smiley by Idaho, and I look forward to seeing what Emily Ruskovich writes next.

Lastly, a book highly recommended by Andrew at Gleebooks, Lincoln in the Bardo ($30). Set in 1892, in a graveyard in Washington, during one night, this incredible book took me somewhere I’ve never been before. Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie has just died, and the grieving father goes back to a borrowed crypt to see his son once more. The text of the book is mainly quotes, from real and imagined people, and from many ghosts. Willie’s soul is in Bardo, a Tibetan term for limbo, and a terrific battle is taking place for it. Most of the ghosts are in denial about their own corporeal states, and all have opinions about Willie. It’s a long time that I’ve read such an astounding book—it’s tremendously sad, fairly horrifying, horribly funny and utterly bewitching. Unsurprising to hear that it took George Saunders five years to write. Louise

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