Welcome back!And Happy New Year to all. Here we present Edgylit's best 25 books of 2013, with a tribute to a couple published a while ago. They are listed in no particular order.Here are the first few:
Javier Marias-The Infatuations(Knopf)-A masterly metaphysical murder mystery touching on life,death. morality and chance.It starts with the protagonist. Maria Dolz, each day watching in the same Madrid cafe a middle aged Perfect Couple- Miguel Desvern and his wife Luisa Alday- having their breakfast. It is only some time later that Maria reads in the press that Miguel has been stabbed to death by a beggar in an apparent random murder.Bringing condolences to the widow,Maria meets her husband's friend , Diaz-Varuela, and soon thereafter begins an intermittent affair with him.
As one critic points out, this is a novel where chance may or may not survive a deeper, more
The translation is by the redoubtable Margaret Jull Costa and is her usual, predictably brilliant work.It has been pointed out that the title in Spanish is Enamoramiento, the act of falling in love briefly but with great passion, whereas the word Infatuations characterizes a state of intense relations often entered into with folly. That's what happens though when works get published in different countries with a different culture and their personnel attend to such issues.
More to the point, there is, in this reader's judgment,no writer who handles long sentences with the same deftness that others display for the short clipped phrase.One feels that he/she is in the presence of a true master, perhaps the finest stylist in Europe, if not the world today.
After you finish The Infatuations you can proceed to one or more of Marias' oeuvre-recommended is the trilogy, Your Face Tomorrow, which turns the spy novel into a Shakespearean voyage, worthy of Cervantes.
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yamagahira(Doubleday)
An enthralling first novel, twenty years in the works,loosely based on the life of Carleton Gajdusek, Nobel prize -winning scientist who discovered as a result of field work in New Guinea ,the connection betweeen between eating at mortuary(cannibal) feasts and developing kore, which is now known as brain prion disease. Gajdusek however stumbled badly by adopting many young boys and bringing them back to the US where in Maryland he was charged with molestation, ultimately served a year in jail and retired in disgrace in Europe.
In Yamagahira's talented hands,these episodes are bookends in what is a wondrous picture of a doctor-anthropologist doing field work on the mythical South Pacific island of Ivu' Ivu where he and members of the expedition encounter a Stone Age tribe.The text,which is replete with detailed close observance of the lives of the people , reads like an exciting piece of field work, along with fictionalized scholarly footnotes; it is hard to believe that one is reading a novel.
The tale turns on the discovery of a subgroup of the islanders who as a result of certain contact with the flesh of an aquatic creature, live to become 200 years old, but also see their minds atrophy even as their bodies retain what appearsto be something akin to eternal youth.The novel touches on these themes as well as the rivalry among scientists on being the first to publish and the ultimate contest by the pharmaceutical companies to capitalize on the discovery and take over the island for their own purposes.with the usual play between the values of different civilizations .
With taste and a fine hand, an engaging and provocatively entertaining read.
A Life In Books,The Rise and Fall of Bleu Mobley-by Warren Lehrer(Goff Books)
A unique offering from the multitalented author and innovative book designer Leherer.He has won numerous awards for book design and is the author/creator of numerous books/multimedia projects,including the recent Crossing the Boulevard, prepared with his wife Judith Sloan, as a series of interviews with immigrants to Queens and beautifully designed sections on the neighborhoods of Queens, perhaps the most ethnically varied, diverse community in the country.
A Life in Books is the fictionalized confession of Bleu Mobley, an author invented by Lehrer as a former inner city youth who became a journalist college professor and accidental best selling writer.The memoir,allegedly weitten from a jail cell,contains a list of 101 books published by Mobley and Lehrer has quoted excerpts from and designed and published book covers from many of them; the book is a humorous trip through publishing with all its conceits and marketing tricks from "Out Sourcing Grandma" to the toilet paper poems (an art series) and children's books(How Bad People Go Bye Bye) etc etc. A literary multimedia satirical romp through the last half century of publishing. Wonderful.
24/7-Late Capitalism and the End of Sleep by Jonathan Crary(Verso)
A philosophical polemic by a distinguished art history professor at Columbia University and a co founder of Zone magazine( an early post-modern Bible),the book is a pungent cri de coeur against how the marketplace creates a sense of perpetual consumer and business activity and in doing so has changed the cyclical rhythm of life and effectively even colonized sleep.Packed with quotable zingers, it treats the marginalization of social life and its replacement by an interface with machines that dwarfs all other relations not only during the daytime but at night as well. We now live in a culture where those in close contact with each other interact more with machines and mimic them than with their fellow citizens One doesn't have to be an anticapitalist to observe the increasingly rapid hybridization of humans- A killer book.
Out of the Mountains -The Coming Age of the Urban Guerilla byDavid Kilcullen (Oxford)
Kilcullen is an Australian expert on military intelligence and the book is a brilliant futurist tract on the conflation of four trends- increasing population, urbanization( as more move to the cities away from rural areas, particularly in Asia Africa and the Americas but elsewhere too), littoralization(the clustering of such cities in coastal areas)-and connectivity-particularly the spread of smart phones , social media sites and email among the world's population , including the poor, oppressed and insurgent populations. It makes the cities and the surrounding areas all arenas in a battle for competitive control among governments, insurgent groups, criminal gangs.fundamentalist radicals and other niche groups.
Again, one doesn't have to be a conservative or think tank spook to appreciate the brilliance of this text.
Just for a few examples- We all remember(don't we now) what happened in Paris after the Revolutions of 1848, the populist rebellion that blew throughout Eueope and affected huge changes in its political and legal landscape. Haussman tore down down many of the side streets and cul de sacs into which the police did not dare follow the rebelling groups and replaced them with a number of grand boulevards including the famous right bank eponymous avenue that in each case were large enough to allow a whole infantry column to march down, thus increasing the presence of the police in various parts of the city. That did not happen in the 1950's when the Algerian insurgency was able to win a victory over France in part because of the winding alleys and overhanging houses of the casbah in Algiers. And it's no secret that when the antiwar groups protested in NY City in 2004 , the NYPD made them march down or up the wide Avenues but then penned them for their rally in cornered off areas. Funny how some of us learn our civics lessons!
Then there was the attack by terrorists in Mumbai in late November 2008-One of the facilities attacked was the world famous Taj Hotel, where in the day or so before the Indian security forces deployed maximum strenth to rout the 4 terrorists stuck inside the Taj(10 terrorists in all did a huge amount of damage including shooting 150 people dead in the railway station), several folks holed up in a private dining club in the Taj. But they made a mistake with their connectivity in tweeting and emailing their loved ones and others and when this was broadcast on tv, the handlers of the terrorists operating remotely dialed in and communicated the location of the hideout to the four remaining terrorists who killed a few more before finally being despatched.
This is an endlessly fascinating guide to what we hope may not be such a dystopian urban future.
Now real estate agents go out and sell those coops!