My literary fiction drought continues this month. I don’t know why, but everything I’ve read that falls into that genre fails to live up to the expectations I have. It’s depressing, and even more so considering this time last year I’d read a number of lovely and wonderful literary stories.
L. Annette Binder’s Rise came close. The cover blurb is misleading; there are no fairytale elements, even dark ones, in these short stories. What we have are elements of the fantastical, from a woman who grows to be a giant and dreams of a kiss from a young boy who becomes a man before her very eyes, to a husband whose ability to see up close gives way to a stranger ability to see things very far away (he can see the craters on the moon!) They’re short, one was nominated for the Pushcart Prize, and a great reminder that yes, there is excellent literary fiction out there. You just have to look in unusual places for it.
The first time I saw the cover for Wire to Wire by Scott Sparling, I wanted to read the book. After getting jolted by a power line, Mike Sterling’s shipped off to the Arizona desert for rehab. That’s about the only straightforward part of this book. The rest is a jumble of fragments, Sterling trying to escape the desert and the mistakes he made there, heading back to Northern Michigan and a youth he knows he can’t recapture but tries to anyway. The story skips around, between the past and three years later in Detroit, where Sterling sees things on his video monitors from his past. We meet Lane, and Harp, and Charlie, and Dickinson, characters who slide in and out of Sterling’s life, some staying longer than others. But the switches in the narrative, from characters to time and place, make it difficult to sink into Sterling’s story, and you sort of want to give up about a quarter of the way through. There are sentences and turns of phrase that push you forward, though, and the end result is a novel that has less to do with crime than it does the people it affects.
I’d enjoyed Clair Kent’s Escorted enough to read it twice, so when I saw she’d written a novella, Breaking, I had to pick it up. Set some time after the end of Escorted, Lori and Ander have settled into their life together. Ander is winding up his studies, and Lori is still writing happily ever afters. The beginning of Breaking starts with an event we don’t know about until the very end, something that sends Ander windmilling back into his past. His avoidance of the issue bothers Lori, and try as she might, she can’t get it out of him. I have to say, I didn’t like it as much as I liked Escorted. Told entirely from Ander’s point of view, he’s still a bit of a cypher, his emotions buried far too deep to really come to light. It works, sort of, to demonstrate that a couple that’s overcome as much as they have still don’t necessarily have it easy once you reach the end, but I wanted more emotional depth from Ander. Lori’s frustration and fear there’s something really and truly wrong were quite clear, though, and I wonder what it might have been like if the story had been from her point of view.
When Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books put out the call for reader reviews of the RITA award nominees, I glanced over the books with no reviews turned in and found no one had reviewed The Farm by Emily McKay. It had been on my TBR list for some time, so I went ahead and took the plunge. You can read the full review here, but in short – totally worth reading. It was easily one of the most original YA paranormal books I’d read in quite some time, and I’ll definitely be picking up the next one.
I hope next month turns the literary tide for me. I’d hate to slog through more prose that should have been relegated to the trash can.