Monday, May 5, 2008

What They're Up To Now!

A couple of things to look forward to from authors we've read:
This Wednesday evening from 4-6:30 William Kent Krueger will be hosting a "Totally Criminal cocktail Hour" at the Dock Cafe in Stillwater. Call 651-430-3385 for reservations...I'm sure he'd love us! And so we all can recognize him a photo to study

Also, for all of you Leif Enger lovers, he has now come out with a second novel called So Brave, Young and Hnadsome. He'll be at Edina's Barnes & Noble this Friday at 7:30. The St. Paul Pioneer Press printed a wonderful review of it earlier this week. The theme centers around his love of the wild west. So Brave, Young, and Handsome is this story told of three primary characters, with a few others thrown in along the way. It is a road story telling of a physical journey that brings out the metaphysical of each of the characters, but not in a mushy, spiritualistic, heavy-laden way. And that’s what is so brilliant about the book. It’s not philosophy. It’s a great tale in the tradition of great American writers from decades past.

This is a book about in between times and in between people drawn with immense clarity and insight, while retaining a direct and sparse prose. Enger tells us of an era and certain characters, a story not a message. It is in this story, however, that we see so much of real life as it so often is: in between.

We are between the old and the new, the good and the bad, the honest and the false, the artist and the laborer, the young and the aged, the adventurous an the prosaic. The characters hope, but don’t know how to find this hope. What they do is carry on, having tasted something of who they know themselves to be they won’t let themselves go back. As Enger says in his acknowledgments, “Sometimes heroism is nothing more than patience, curiosity, and a refusal to panic.”

What I like so much about Enger’s work is that it is so hopeful. Absolutely honest, mind you, there’s no false hope to be found here or sentimentalism seeking to manipulate our emotions. These are real people, faults and all. But unlike so much contemporary literature and film Enger doesn’t feel a need to obsess with corruption or ruin. His is a book that shows people who are not handsome, or young, and rarely brave. But they want to be, and be such in ways that matter to them, not to others around them. They are seeking wholeness for themselves.

Not all succeed. Some do, but not in the expected ways.

“For at the same time he lost everything–the very direction of his own steps–he won the thing he held so precious he wouldn’t approach it in words.”

It is a story of real life. Not gritty, corrupted, malformed caricatures. Real people, or at least characters who are desperate to become real people, who learn what it is to be a real person.

With all this depth and insight it might sound ponderous. But it’s not. It’s very gentle and easy-going. It moves along at a varied pace, with enough movement to never seem tiresome and enough twists to never seem predictable. My only slight irritation is that sometimes Enger jumps ahead a bit and is so eager to bring a slight twist that he breaks the moment with unnecessary foreshadowing, sort of a “you’ll love what comes next!” moments. I wish he just let us experience the story as it happened a bit more. But this is a minor qualm and he does even this within the contexts of a fitting narration.

It’s a brilliant book, in craft and theme and insight. It’s the best work of contemporary fiction I’ve read in a very long time and guess it will be my favorite book of 2008


Deb H. said...

Yes, Thank you Leif!! Been waiting for his book for a long time! I hope I can quote the reviewer and say "it's my best read of 2008"!!!

Deb H. said...

Go Leif, #1 in Twin Cites Best Seller List This Week!!