by Weston Cutter
Yes, this is lame and obnoxious, but I’m doing it: here’s microreviews for five books which I’ve read in the last 8+ months and have been meaning to review and there’s just not enough time, period. The candle flickers, the minutes speed by and it’s September’s end and these books deserve more than brief mention here but this will have to for now do. I’m really, really hoping that after putting these to bed and my backlog’s clear, I can get ahead with just full-on reviewing again (plus all the music! the new Blind Pilot! the new AA Bondy! the new Peter Wolf Crier! Buckner! Jayhawks! Holland! Jaffe! The mind positively reels).
First: Madden’s an absolute bad-ass as a narrative guide: dude’s open in the book’s first pages that he has no logical reason to be drawn to taxidermy, yet here he is, not just drawn but now having written the best (only?) book on the history and art and weird impulses that lead to preserving dead animals in life-like forms. The through-current here is a history of Carl Akeley, the grandfather of taxidermy, and The Authentic Animal‘d be worth if it if it were just Madden giving the Akeley bio. Instead, it’s this rich, very personal, very individual story about the urges to collect and display, and a surprisingly deep consideration of what authenticity means. It’s really a hell of a good read.
I am a total asshole. I’ve had this book for I don’t know how long now, at least 6 months, and read it right on its arrival and loved it, thought then and still think it’s one of this year’s top 4 or 5 collections of poetry (Christ! I’ve had the book even longer: this thing came out in January!), and now here we are, woefully late. Gay’s poetry is fiercely amazing, and Bringing the Shovel Down is necessary reading if only for the trio of love poems (“Love, You Got Me Good,” “Love, I’m Done with You,” “Love, Here’s the Deal”), but of course there’s bigger and more ocean out beyond those: there’s alive music and there are odes and there’s everywhere this enthusiastic joy-seeking heart and eye set of Gay’s. The book’s magic. Should be in any year-end list.
Let’s all raise a glass to how awesome thrillers are, and let’s keep the glass raised for those of us who have and are still coming late to the party. Robotham’s Wreckage is a fun-as-hell, multi-thread story involving the rebuilding Iraq and the secret pathways of money. Meaning, of course, it’s about how the world we live in is daily built by forces we’re suspiciously aware of at best. Be aware: this book’s on the dense end of things—it’s a thriller, sure, but it winds thickly through scenes, slowing it here and there—not that that makes it any less worth reading, though.
2011′s blessedly not an election year, but I imagine most of us are already tired/frustrated with elected officials at present. Here’s the solution for your headache after listening to platitudes about what is or is not America, or American, all those ringingly empty li(n)es about who we are or should be: read Wood’s essays on the revolution. Read and be amazed and reminded that America’s stranger and more amazing than any pithy campaign point can possibly encapsulate.
On page 18 of this book a woman’s described as being a vociferous reader, and that’s when I got up and came into the kitchen and moaned to my wife about the frustration when good stories get bogged down in over-excited, too-hot prose that doesn’t make sense. Look up the definiton of vociferous if you’re not clear, but trust me: the woman being described wasn’t being pegged as someone who enthusiastically read aloud. That’s the shit side of The Takedown: it’s too pulpy, and the sacrifices made for the sake of its pulpiness come in the form of corner-cut sentences, stuff that’s obviously being cranked down to elicit more oomph. If you can get past that sort of reading experience, The Takedown‘s fantasitc, a gripping story of a huge cartel’s, well, takedown. Just don’t write like Robinson after you’ve finished.