Book choice for July 2010

Timoleon Vieta Come Home [suggested by Sarah Dennis]

front cover

This book has certainly sparked some mixed reviews! Personally I loved it! I am an animal lover; I would rather give to an animal charity than a human charity any day and I often find myself more moved by the plight of animals than by that of humans. Despite the fact that I love animals, I still enjoyed this book and don't condemn it just for its gruesome ending. I don't see how just because one is an animal lover the end would make them condemn the whole book.

Yes, the ending is disturbing (but you really do see it coming from early on and so have plenty of time to brace yourself) and I did find the last few pages difficult to read. I read them whilst chanting in my head "it's not real, it's not real, it's not real"!

There are some wonderfully tragi-comic moments in the book. I found the humour very dark and dry and the general style often slightly reminiscent of "Perfume" by Patrick Suskind. There are also a few genuinely comic moments without the element of tragedy infused in them.

All in all, a great book; very entertaining but maybe avoid if you're inclined to be a tad over-sensitive. [review by 'Miss Kiki' on amazon]

The book has a Wikipedia page.

About the Author

Dan Rhodes has written six books:

Anthropology (2000)
Don't Tell Me The Truth About Love (2001)
Timoleon Vieta Come Home (2003)
The Little White Car (2004 - writing as Danuta de Rhodes)
Gold (2007)
Little Hands Clapping (2010)

He is the winner of the 2010 E.M. Forster Award. Here's a list of some of the other honours he has received:

Anthropology was shortlisted for the Macmillan Silver Pen award, losing out at the final hurdle to The Hill Bachelors by William Trevor. If you're going to lose to anyone, it might as well be William Trevor. At a break in proceedings, Rhodes had a dramatic tussle over a bottle of wine with someone he later found out was Harold Pinter.

Timoleon Vieta Come Home won the QPB New Voices Award in 2004. This was Rhodes' first prize, and although he was mildly disappointed that he could no longer refer to himself as an award-losing author, he was, on balance, delighted to have won. He celebrated by going on the water dodgems at Coney Island, fatally damaging his brand new watch in the process. He had thrown away the receipt.

Read more of the same on his website (from where the above was taken), or try Wikipedia.


Shortlisted for this month

Book selectors can bring one, two or three books for selection, although it's usual to bring three. This month, Sarah's other suggestions were:

What is the What

What is the What

Valentino Achak Deng, real-life hero of this engrossing epic, was a refugee from the Sudanese civil war - the bloodbath before the current Darfur bloodbath - of the 1980s and 90s.

In this fictionalized memoir, Eggers makes him an icon of globalization. Separated from his family when Arab militia destroy his village, Valentino joins thousands of other "Lost Boys," beset by starvation, thirst and man-eating lions on their march to squalid refugee camps in Ethiopia and Kenya, where Valentino pieces together a new life.

He eventually reaches America, but finds his quest for safety, community and fulfillment in many ways even more difficult there than in the camps: he recalls, for instance, being robbed, beaten and held captive in his Atlanta apartment. Eggers's limpid prose gives Valentino an unaffected, compelling voice and makes his narrative by turns harrowing, funny, bleak and lyrical. The result is a horrific account of the Sudanese tragedy, but also an emblematic saga of modernity - of the search for home and self in a world of unending upheaval.

The above is copyright © Reed Business Information. See also Wikipedia.

About the Author

Dave Eggers is the author of six previous books, including his most recent, Zeitoun, a nonfiction account a Syrian-American immigrant and his extraordinary experience during Hurricane Katrina and What Is the What, a finalist for the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award. That book, about Valentino Achak Deng, a survivor of the civil war in southern Sudan, gave birth to the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation, run by Mr. Deng and dedicated to building secondary schools in southern Sudan. Eggers is the founder and editor of McSweeney's, an independent publishing house based in San Francisco that produces a quarterly journal, a monthly magazine (The Believer), and Wholphin, a quarterly DVD of short films and documentaries. In 2002, with N´┐Żnive Calegari he co-founded 826 Valencia, a nonprofit writing and tutoring center for youth in the Mission District of San Francisco. Local communities have since opened sister 826 centers in Chicago, Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Ann Arbor, Seattle, and Boston. In 2004, Eggers taught at the University of California-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, and there, with Dr. Lola Vollen, he co-founded Voice of Witness, a series of books using oral history to illuminate human rights crises around the world. A native of Chicago, Eggers graduated from the University of Illinois with a degree in journalism. He now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his wife and two children.

The above is taken from Eggers' entry on McSweeneys. He also has a Wikipedia page.

American Wife

American Wife

The "American wife" of Sittenfeld's new novel, conspicuously modeled after the life of Laura Bush as recorded in Ann Gerhart's biography "The Perfect Wife: The Life and Choices of Laura Bush" (2004), is a fictitious first lady named Alice Blackwell, née Lindgren, a Wisconsin-born former grade school teacher and librarian who comes belatedly to realize, in middle age, at the height of the Iraq war that her aggressively militant president-husband has initiated and stubbornly continues to defend, that she has compromised her youthful liberal ideals: "I lead a life in opposition to itself."

As a portraitist in prose, Sittenfeld never deviates from sympathetic respect for her high-profile subject: she is not Francis Bacon but rather more Norman Rockwell. Nearness to the White House and the egomaniacal possibilities of presidential power have not inspired this novelist to wild flights of surreal satire as in the brilliantly executed Nixon-inspired fictions of a bygone era, Philip Roth's "Our Gang (Starring Tricky and His Friends)" (1971) and Robert Coover's "Public Burning" (1977).

There are no stylistic innovations in "American Wife" and very little that is political or even historical. Sittenfeld's prose here is straight forward and unobtrusive, lacking even the wry asides of the girl-narrators of "Prep" and "The Man of My Dreams," whose powers of observation are sharpened by their chronic low-grade depression; Alice is never other than "good" - "selfless" - stricken by conscience as she looks back upon the life that has become mysterious and problematic to her, like a life lived by someone not herself: "Was I mutable, without a fixed identity? I could see the arguments for every side, for and against people like the Blackwells" (her husband Charlie's wealthy, politically influential family). "Charlie . . . had told me I had a strong sense of myself, but I wondered then if the opposite was true - if what he took for strength was a bending sort of accommodation to his ways."

The above taken from a New York Times book review.

About the Author

Curtis Sittenfeld is the author of the bestselling novels American Wife, Prep, and The Man of My Dreams, which are being translated into twenty-five languages. Prep also was chosen as one of the Ten Best Books of 2005 by The New York Times, nominated for the UK's Orange Prize, and optioned by Paramount Pictures. Curtis won the Seventeen magazine fiction writing contest in 1992, at age sixteen, and since then her writing has appeared in many publications, including The Atlantic Monthly, Salon, Glamour, and on public radio's This American Life. A graduate of Stanford University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she was the 2002 - 2003 writer in residence at St. Albans School in Washington, D.C.

The above extracted from her website or you could try her Wikipedia entry.


Previous Months' Book Choices

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