In the last few months I went on buying sprees at my favourite indies, so now I’m catching up on my pile.
Perhaps what I should be reading this weekend is Shani Mootoo’s Moving Forward Sideways Like a Crab (Doubleday Canada) about gender identity and literal moving between worlds – Trinidad and Canada. Cereus Blooms at Night was a beautiful novel and it was high time to revisit Mootoo’s work. And Ben McNally told me one of his staff thought it was the best Canadian fiction they had read so far this year.
I’m currently reading Jane Gardam’s Old Filth (Abacus), which was shortlisted for the 2005 Orange Prize and has kept popping up in people’s best of lists for awhile. It’s been many years since I read The Queen of the Tambourine and thought it was high time to dip into Gardam’s work again; the meaning of the protagonists nickname “Failed in London Try Hong Kong” has always intrigued, and the life of a Raj Orphan allows Gardam to trace England from it’s days of Empire to the near present.
I just finished reading Darren Greer’s Just Beneath My Skin (Cormorant Books). Greer writes of troubled people and unhappy lives but you can’t help but come to care for most of them — well, except for the damaged psycho Johnny. The bonds between Jake and his son Nathan, and the hope that drives each of them is subtly done (chapters alternate between the two voices) and the novel is all the more heartbreaking for that.
And one of my guilty pleasures, just wolfed down, is Christopher Moore. The Serpent of Venice (William Morrow) had me guffawing uncontrollably as Moore pulps and recombines The Merchant of Venice and Othello with a protective and vengeful sea monster (and the Fool from Lear), in a way that sometimes comments on the subtexts of the original plays, but which ultimately expands into sheer lunacy, as is always the case with Moore.
Next on the list: I had been told by an editor that Nicole Lundrigan’s The Widow Tree (Douglas & McIntyre) should have been her breakout novel. It has been called literary mystery, set in 1950s Yugoslavia – a world of silent betrayals and family tragedies – about three teenage boys who discover a cache of long-lost Roman coins.
And finally, I picked up Orhan Pamuk’s My Name Is Red (Anchor), which was highly recommended a couple of years ago by a fellow traveller, an American living in Istanbul, as Pamuk’s best work: a powerful commentary on art and an avocation of 16th-century Istanbul.