Renato! (McPherson & Co, 577 pages) is a vast, rambling, delightful tale about the life and loves of Renato Stillamare, a once noted painter who mourns the decades-long dwindling of his reputation. He is also struck to the core by the loss of his wife, his near life-long love, and his complicated muse. The story is three previous novels merged through adroit craft into one. The first section offers the fantastic family origins in Renato’s mythic grandfather, a man half human and half horse. The second section is set a century later, covering the life of Renato, an aging painter wishing to reclaim his prominence in the art world. The third section follows Renato as he tries to revive his reputation and endure the scorching misery of widowerhood. Continue reading
In James Shelley’s The Deep Translucent Pond (Adelaide Books, 192 pages), the Black Magus, “Cleveland’s greatest poet since Hart Crane,” is getting on in years and mentors his last two aspiring poets in an esoteric fellowship program known as the Triangulum. The Black Magus explains,
“The Triangulum Galaxy is the most distant light we can see with the naked eye. It contains a nebula, NGC 604. Radiation from new stars blows holes in the nebula, providing a view into its black interior. A star-birthing factory…The Tenth Triangulum’s first order of business is to understand holes.”
With references to Da Vinci’s Last Supper and triangles as the most stable shape, the novel opens with elements that are reminiscent of The Da Vinci Code. Jerome Konigsberg, one of the poets who has won the fellowship on the basis, in part, of a poem titled “The Regaining,” presents the poem in an introductory session:
I am realistic enough to know
If I stumble upon The Grail
It won’t be a chalice, haloed in
radial spokes of blinding white
I only hope
like the sighting of a rare bird
I recognize it before it slips away
to help keep my head above water
Scanning the horizon for rescue:
the next shimmer of light.
New Book Announcement
A beautiful woman is found stabbed and frozen in the ice of Lake Much, dressed only in the costume wings and tight corset of a Norse Valkyrie.
Grammaticus Kolbitter, police precinct records clerk by day and keyboardist in a Viking heavy-metal band, The Berserkers, by night, is pulled into the investigation.
What does a records clerk know about solving crime? Reluctantly, Grammaticus embarks on the adventure of a lifetime.
Available through Book Depository (US, free shipping) and Amazon UK. Visit author website: vicpeterson.com
Genre: Literary Fiction, Magical Realism, Thriller
Like many who have read this first novel, written by a young woman still in her twenties, I marvel at the very existence of the The Tiger’s Wife (Random House, 338 pages). How could someone this young have written a narrative this complicated, this full of insights into human nature, this teeming with art—this GOOD? I have read several reviews of the book online and I marvel once again at the caviling, the failure to appreciate the book on the part of some reviewers. Have American readers become so inured to the genre of “domestic literary realism,” this dull, insipid stuff that dominates the publishing world these days—stories of ordinary Americans doing ordinary things, told, for the most part, in flat ordinary language—that they fail to appreciate something with genuine verve and brilliance? Continue reading
As I read Going Dark, Selected Stories by Dennis Must, (Coffeetown Press, 170 pages) I saw a realistic foundation in each story. Here is a recognizable world with real people suffering real-life anguish. What interested me, however, was the way the author then handled time, space, and imagination. To come to grips with it, I had to invent a literary term—lyrical surrealism—to distinguish Must’s work from fantasy which, to my mind, means dragons and dragonspeak, time warps, elves and men with long beards carrying oaken staves and speaking some dialect of incomprehensible origin. Continue reading
One after one, exotic characters, each with a miraculous tale to tell, come to visit comatose Rosa and her troubled family in Karen Wyld’s When Rosa Came Home (Amazon, 238 pages). Many of these visitors are circus performers or former circus performers. Some are human, some not. The Ambrosia family home is a remote vineyard and becomes yet another magical character — reacting to and affecting the actions set there. It’s trees and gardens fall into shadows when trouble prevails, and burst with light and life when joy arrives. Continue reading
As Ivan Goldman’s Isaac: A Modern Fable (The Permanent Press, 222 pages) nears its conclusion, one of the novel’s narrators makes a telling observation: “Whatever we think we know, we’re just guessing, like everyone else.” In context, the narrator, Ruth, is commenting on her familiarity with a slippery and sinister academician named Borges, but the line also captures the essence of the novel itself. Drawing heavily on the Biblical tale of Abraham and Isaac, this “modern fable” serves as a telling commentary on humanity’s ongoing struggle with questions of religion and our intimations of the divine. To wit: What’s the difference between those who claim to hear the voice of God and those who are just plain crazy? Continue reading