In recent opinion columns and this picks column, Ive already noted books by certain writers Ive enjoyed. One of the joys of finding great authors is following them into other works. Here are three notable novels from writers whose works Ive touted in the past that Ive subsequently enjoyed, all of them authors who compel the dedicated reader to continue to consume from their oeuvres.
Book: Fluke by Christopher Moore Moores Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff provided me with an excellent starting point to opine on the issue of the sacred versus the profane. I immediately got Fluke after reading Lamb, and it tackles a matter about which I am just as passionate about and fascinated by as religion and spirituality: the relationship between mankind and whales. What I find myself loving about Moores work is how he injects humor and humanity into serious themes to create stories that enlighten while they delightfully and often hilariously entertain. The mystery of whale songs and the idiosyncrasies of those who both seriously study cetaceans as well as exploit them provide a wonderful starting point for a tale that swims off into unexpected depths of highly original and thought provoking science fiction imagination. But for all of his absurdist wackiness, he ingeniously addresses again the weighty matters of who we are and what we believe with such spoonfuls of sugary deliciousness that the seriousness of what he says beneath his stories becomes gently yet firmly persuasive. And that is indeed a mark of true comedic and philosophical genius.
Book: Rule of the Bone by Russell Banks Im awed by how, after now reading four novels by Banks, each one of them is distinctly different in style, tone, voice and topic, yet all never fail to engage, entertain and enlighten. This one starts out within the bleak milieu faced by a disaffected and rebellious teen in far Upstate New York and winds up quite unexpectedly in Jamaica. In a way that recalls the brilliant language of James Joyces A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Banks gets inside the mind and thought patterns of youth and follows them on a journey of self discovery and maturation while the trail of his tale goes from the mundane to the exotic. Among modern American storytellers, Banks is a gem.
Book: Claudius The God by Robert Graves While maybe not quite as concise and compelling as his masterful I, Claudius, its sequel is nonetheless as highly notable a work of modern English language literature, and with its predecessor likely as vivid and valuable a portal into the life, culture and politics of ancient Rome as any other works on that subject, both historical and fictional. Graves also makes a convincing case that the greatness of a person much less an emperor is not their Caesarian achievements and more the internal measures of a man. Historians may differ on the legacy of the actual Claudius, but Graves makes him for the reader as beloved, wise and both benevolent yet still ruthless but for the right and justified reasons a ruler as anyone who has held power in all of the worlds great states.
From The Progressive Populist, December 15, 2010
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