Friday, April 27, 2007

Friday, Light Rain, 46°F

It's Friday. It's raining. And it's book reviews day at the Rocky Mountain News. Today's spotlight section features my review of Michael Gruber's The Book of Air and Shadows."An elaborate shot at breathing new life into the code-breaking formula, the book leapfrogs between the 16th-century intrigues of a rakish British spy and the modern treasure hunt for a lost manuscript by William Shakespeare."

My next review at the paper will be Rant by Chuck Palahniuk. Doubleday has put up a nifty flash site to help promote the book. Dig the graphic traffic reports.

Also in the Rocky, you can also find Lisa Bornstein's complementary review of The Ministry of Special Cases by Nathan Englander, the celebrated young writer's first novel about a family losing touch in the midst of Argentina's Dirty War. I talked to the author earlier this year about the book.

"In switching from the short story to the novel, I thought a lot about what justifies a novel," Englander said. "Each part should be enough. I thought a story should build. It’s enough that a man who chips names in a whore’s cemetery, you know? I wanted each element of the novel to build that way. The story deserves it.

"It was this idea of the forward-looking search. Thinking about absence, I thought, it can’t be about the hole in the novel. That’s unacceptable. It was really for me the challenge of building the character and removing the character but also the book being about Kaddish, about Lillian, about the forward motion of search as opposed to sadness and even balancing this sadness. It’s not about kindness or what is the right thing to do for a reader, in a sense. I think artistically there has to be this balance between joy and sadness, about bearability."

"This is a heavy story. Obviously, what keeps me interested for a decade are these challenges of writing that I think are impossibilities but working with this absence and this idea and this tonal pressure to have a valve in the novel to release all that pressure in the novel’s heart."

Finally, the Edgar Award winners are in. Jason Goodwin wins best novel for The Janissary Tree and puts a feather in the cap of Sarah Crichton over at Farrar Strauss Giroux, who apparently told her writer not to come. Whoops. Stephen King becomes Grand Master. And our man in Manhattan, Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime, wins best short story for "The Home Front." Well done. Drinks all around.

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