An experts' guide to summer fun: Reading
Culture vultures share their picks
Aug 17, 2006
REAGAN FOR PREZ?
Nick Hornby, author of High Fidelity and A Long Way Down, offers his favourite novel of the past year or so: "Jess Walter's Citizen Vince. It's funny, dark and ingenious; it convinces you that it knows what it's talking about. And it's actually talking about quite a lot, in an attractively unassuming way. Vince has been relocated from N.Y.C. to Spokane, Wash., under a witness-protection program, and he has to work two things out. The first is why someone's trying to kill him; the second is who he should vote for in the 1980 presidential election. One problem is obviously more pressing, but they are given equal consideration. Jess Walter is, I suspect, a novelist to watch."
THE HILLS ARE ALIVE
Anita Rau Badami, author of the forthcoming Can You Hear the Nightbird Call?, turns to her homeland: "The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai. This luminous book is set in the Himalayan foothills of India. A rising insurgency forms the ominous backdrop to the characters' lives. In this lush natural paradise, in a crumbling old house, lives an embittered retired judge and his orphaned teenaged granddaughter. Through her eyes we witness a world where old and new, privilege and poverty, beauty and ugliness rub against each other like pieces of flint, and finally ignite. Desai spins a tale that is at once tender and angry, comical and despairing. This is a book that has to be read."
SIX SAD MEN
"Seven Men, by Max Beerbohm," says Seth, the cartoonist and author of the graphic novel Wimbledon Green. "I am a real admirer of Max's fluid and airy Edwardian caricatures.Until recently, however, I hadn't read much of his fiction. What was surprising about reading this collection of short stories was how wonderfully like his drawings his prose was -- fluid, droll, and elegant. This group of stories spotlights six turn-of-the-century fictional men -- little sad men, mostly failures of some type or other -- cleverly told by a genuine wit. The seventh man is, of course, Max himself. Funny, but not without real feeling."
A CASE OF MURDER, A CASE OF SCOTCH
Who can resist the boozy charms of Nick and Nora Charles? "I bought Dashiel Hammet's The Thin Man in the airport two days ago," says Lisa Moore, author of Open and Alligator, both Giller Prize nominees, "and it's funny, quick and ultra-stylish and has vivid characters who drink a lot and hang around seedy bars and have money and lose it fast and femme fatales and venetian blinds. I would also recommend James Salter's Last Night because the prose is transparent and sharp and sexy and dangerous and Michael Winter's The Big Why for the same reasons."
Mystery writer and forensic anthropologist Kathy Reichs (Break no Bones)offers her last find: "I just finished reading The Secret Life of Bees and was thoroughly charmed. Humour. Southern ambience. Endearing characters -- the heroine a modern-day Huck Finn on a South Carolina quest. In Sue Monk Kidd's tale, Old Dixie and her native daughter both struggle toward a new awareness."
AN ENGLISH PROUST?
Booker Prize nominee Sarah Waters (Fingersmith)admits she's cheating: "The book I would recommend is really 12 books: it's the A Dance to the Music of Time sequence by Anthony Powell. Powell is often called the English Proust, because of his preoccupation with the passage of time and the workings of memory; in A Dance he builds recurring characters and scenes into a meditation on love, friendship and politics that's both achingly poignant and tremendously funny. A brilliant read."
"Summer is the perfect time for people watching," says Robert Sawyer, the award-winning science-fiction author of Mindscan. "Nothing makes that more entertaining than recognizing the basic primate behaviour we exhibit in groups, in interactions with our own gender and with the opposite sex. Our Inner Ape, by Dutch primatologist Frans de Waal, lets you see the hidden chimp, bonobo, and gorilla lurking in the background. Witty, charming, and deeply compassionate, de Waal enlightens while he entertains."