Quiet, Two Reviews for a Long Weekend

It’s been pretty quiet around here at bookdwarf.com. I’m not shutting down or anything. I got a new job, one that is exciting and that I have a lot to learn about, so most of my energy is going there these days. I’m off to Book Expo next Tuesday and I’m very excited to see all my old book world friends and perhaps score some new books.

This new job has not stopped me from reading of course. I’m loving Francine Prose’s Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, the story of several characters whose lives cross in pre-war Paris. The writing is stunning and makes me want to read more history of the 30s.

I also read and fell in love with Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique, coming from Riverhead Books in July. It’s one of those books that you become so absorbed in reading, that it feels like coming up from underwater when you have to close the book. It follows three generations of a U.S. Virgin Islands family from 1916 to the 1970s. Two sisters prospects are shattered after the death of their father, ship captain Owen Bradshaw, and unknown to them, their father left behind a half brother. Both are unusually beautiful, but and their brother has inherited the family good looks. The novel mixes magical realism with more realistic descriptions of how the island changes as American tourism–and American racism–upends the traditions they’ve held dear. This is Yanique’s debut novel and marks a fresh, new voice to look forward to reading.

I also greatly enjoyed reading Valerie Luiselli’s essay collection Sidewalks, out now from wonderful Coffee House Press. Luiselli gloriously investigates cities in a series of essays that use the small, undocumented moments in an urban area to explore larger ideas. How does one translate a supposedly untranslatable world, like the Portuguese word saudade, which is somewhere between homesickness and longing? She slowly walks you through her ideas, like someone exploring a neighborhood. Here’s the bodega that sells sodas cheap, here’s a relingos, or an urban abscence, a pocket of nothingness in an otherwise filled space. She writes elegantly, with precision, and with a deep intellect that hopefully will not go unnoticed much longer.

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