Author: David Means
Publisher: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Summary (from inside flap): At the bitter end of the 1960s, after surviving multiple assassination attempts, President John F. Kennedy is entering his third term in office. The Vietnam War rages on, and the president has created a vast federal agency, the Psych Corps, dedicated to maintaining the nation’s mental hygiene by any means necessary. Soldiers returning from the war have their battlefield traumas “enfolded” – wiped from their memories through drugs and therapy – while veterans too damaged to be enfolded roam at will in Michigan, evading the government and reenacting atrocities on civilians. This destabilized version of American history is the vision of twenty-two-year-old Eugene Allen, who has returned from Vietnam to write the book-within-a-book at the center of Hystopia. In conversation with some of the greatest war narratives, from Homer’s Iliad to the Rolling Stones’ “Gimme Shelter,” David Means channels the voice of Allen, the young veteran out to write a novel that can bring honor to those he fought with in Vietnam while also capturing the tragic history of his own family.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I am currently attempting to read the entire Man Booker 2016 long list before October 25th, when the winner will be announced. So far I have read two of the thirteen, both of which I have written full reviews of – The North Water by Ian McGuire and My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. Hystopia by David Means is my third Man Booker read. I’ve decided to take a little break and read some other books before continuing with the long list, so this may be my last Man Booker post for a week or two.
“When I start to feel the urge to recite poetry, I know we’re about done for the day. And I feel that urge. In that war you had a superabundance of highly educated men in the trenches carrying a working knowledge of Greek and Latin, reading Hardy and Dickens, filled with a desire to capture in words the way a sunrise or sunset looked from the bottom of the trench, or the way it felt to do a stand-to at dusk or twilight. All we’re getting from this war is the desire to write rock-and-roll lyrics.”
Continue reading “Man Bookering: Hystopia by David Means”
Title: My Name is Lucy Barton
Author: Elizabeth Strout
Publisher: Random House
Summary (from inside flap): A new book by Pulitzer Prize winner Elizabeth Strout is cause for celebration. Her bestselling novels, brilliantly told, profoundly affecting, have illuminated our most tender relationships. Now, in My Name is Lucy Barton, this extraordinary writer shows how a simple hospital visit becomes a portal to the most tender relationship of all – the one between mother and daughter. Lucy Barton is recovering slowly from what should have been a simple operation. Her mother, to whom she hasn’t spoken for many years, comes to see her. Gentle gossip about people from Lucy’s childhood in Amgash, Illinois, seems to reconnect them, but just below the surface lie the tension and longing that have informed every aspect of Lucy’s life: her troubled family, her desire to become a writer, her marriage, her love for her two daughters. Knitting this powerful narrative together is the brilliant storytelling voice of Lucy herself: keenly observant, deeply human, and truly unforgettable.
“This is a story about love, you know that. This is a story of a man who has been tortured every day of his life for things he did in the war. This is the story of a wife who stayed with him, because most wives did in that generation, and she comes to her daughter’s hospital room and talks compulsively about everyone’s marriage going bad, she doesn’t even know it, doesn’t even know that’s what she’s doing. This is a story about a mother who loves her daughter. Imperfectly. Because we all love imperfectly.”
As I mentioned in my last blog post, I am currently trying to read my way through the Man Booker long list for 2016. After finishing The North Water by Ian McGuire, which was extremely intense and rather disturbing, I wanted something a bit less taxing. The portrayal of a young woman’s relationship with her mother promised in the summary of Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton sounded like just the book, so that is what I chose as my second Man Booker read. Continue reading “Man Bookering: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout”
Title: The North Water
Author: Ian McGuire
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Summary (from inside flap): Behold the man: drunk, brutal, and bloodthirsty. Henry Drax is a harpooner on the Volunteer, a Yorkshire whaler bound for the hunting waters of the Arctic Circle. Also aboard is Patrick Sumner, an ex-army surgeon with a shattered reputation and no better option than to embark as the ship’s medic on this ill-fated voyage. In India, during the Siege of Delhi, Sumner thought he had experienced the depths to which a man can stoop, but now, trapped in the wooden belly of the ship with Drax, he encounters pure evil and is forced to act. As the true purposes of the expedition become clearer, the confrontation between the two men plays out amid the freezing darkness of an arctic water.
The North Water is an interesting novel for me to sit down and write a review of because it’s not my usual sort of book, not by a long shot. For whatever reason, I tend to shy away from books about surviving in extreme conditions, long voyages by ship, or anything set in arctic environments, yet this novel has all three of those elements. Why in the world then, you may be asking yourself, did I decide to read The North Water by Ian McGuire? Why, the Man Booker long list, my dear Watson! Continue reading “Man Bookering: The North Water by Ian McGuire”