Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Death And All His Friends

I should probably be ashamed of myself for cribbing a title from the new Coldplay album but it was just too appropriate for these reviews to pass up. I nearly forgot to mention that I had two reviews in the Spotlight section of Friday's Rocky Mountain News.

The more well-known title is probably David Guterson's new novel, The Other, which I've given the brief once-over to here. You can also read my equally brief exchange with the author over at the Kirkus BEA/ALA Guide, but I'll reproduce it here for the sake of continuity.

Kirkus proclaimed that David Guterson outdistances the long shadow of his bestseller Snow Falling on Cedars (1994) with The Other. Through thoughtful deliberation and a heartbreaking denouement, it follows narrator Neil Countryman’s endeavor to define himself via his friendship with fortunate son John William Barry. “It’s the story of two friends who share an avid interest in the outdoors,” says Guterson. “With time, they go their separate ways, one into a very conventional life, and the other becoming increasingly hermetic, to the point where he isolates himself in the forests of Washington State. Yet the friendship remains intact and yields surprising results for both men.” The novel draws parallels to works as diverse as Thoreau’s Walden and Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild, but Guterson was more inspired by reclusive poet Emily Dickinson as well as his own deep regard for the Pacific Northwest. “I was interested in that question of the role of ‘the other’ in one’s life and the way that concept might be embodied not only in someone else but also in the way we carry the other inside of us as a shadow our whole lives,” he says. Even Barry’s notoriety as “the hermit of the Hoh” can’t overwhelm Countryman’s (and the author’s) obvious passion for their native territory. “Psychically, I think it’s true that home is a place that gets under your skin,” says Guterson. “I can’t help feeling a powerful connection to this place no matter where I go in life.”

I've also written another brief review of debut author Nam Le's powerful little book of short stories, The Boat, which appears in the same issue. Between this book and Dead Boys I'm going to have to give some more thought to the possibilities of short fiction. In any case, this guy is somebody to keep an eye on.


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