On a ranch in southeastern Texas, soon after World War II, a group of solitary, inarticulately lonely men gathers to work animals as the sun sets for good on the mythic American West. All of these men nurse losses both personal (siblings or wives) and collective (a shared lifestyle and philosophy). Among them is John Grady Cole, the adolescent hero of the first book in Cormac McCarthy’s Border trilogy, All the Pretty Horses. John Grady remains the magnificent horseman he always was, and he still dreams too much. On the ranch, he meets Billy Parham, whose own tragic sojourn through Mexico in The Crossing, the second book of the set, continues to quietly suffocate him. The two form a friendship that will nurture both but save neither from the destiny that McCarthy’s characters always sense lurching to meet them.
Soaked in storm-heavy atmosphere but brightened by the ranch-hands’ easy camaraderie and gentle humor, Cities of the Plain surprises with its sweetness. The awkward doomed-romance plot at the center of this tight, concise novel fails to convince, but, remarkably, does little to undercut the book’s impact. What lingers here, and what matters, are the brooding, eerie portraits of the plains and the riders, glimpsed mostly alone but occasionally leaning together, who slip across them, over the horizon into memory. —Glen Hirshberg
Cormac McCarthy - The Road
Cormac McCarthy sets his new novel, The Road, in a post-apocalyptic blight of gray skies that drizzle ash, a world in which all matter of wildlife is extinct, starvation is not only prevalent but nearly all-encompassing, and marauding bands of cannibals roam the environment with pieces of human flesh stuck between their teeth. If this sounds oppressive and dispiriting, it is. McCarthy may have just set to paper the definitive vision of the world after nuclear war, and in this recent age of relentless saber-rattling by the global powers, it's not much of a leap to feel his vision could be not far off the mark nor, sadly, right around the corner. Stealing across this horrific (and that's the only word for it) landscape are an unnamed man and his emaciated son, a boy probably around the age of ten. It is the love the father feels for his son, a love as deep and acute as his grief, that could surprise readers of McCarthy's previous work. McCarthy's Gnostic impressions of mankind have left very little place for love. In fact that greatest love affair in any of his novels, I would argue, occurs between the Billy Parham and the wolf in The Crossing. But here the love of a desperate father for his sickly son transcends all else. McCarthy has always written about the battle between light and darkness; the darkness usually comprises 99.9% of the world, while any illumination is the weak shaft thrown by a penlight running low on batteries. In The Road, those batteries are almost out--the entire world is, quite literally, dying--so the final affirmation of hope in the novel's closing pages is all the more shocking and maybe all the more enduring as the boy takes all of his father's (and McCarthy's) rage at the hopeless folly of man and lays it down, lifting up, in its place, the oddest of all things: faith. --Dennis Lehane
Cormac McCarthy - The Sunset Limited
A startling encounter on a New York subway platform leads two strangers to a run-down tenement where a life or death decision must be made. In that small apartment, “Black” and “White,” as the two men are known, begin a conversation that leads each back through his own history, mining the origins of two fundamentally opposing world views. White is a professor whose seemingly enviable existence of relative ease has left him nonetheless in despair. Black, an ex-con and ex-addict, is the more hopeful of the men–though he is just as desperate to convince White of the power of faith as White is desperate to deny it. Their aim is no less than this: to discover the meaning of life. Deft, spare, and full of artful tension, The Sunset Limited is a beautifully crafted, consistently thought-provoking, and deceptively intimate work by one of the most insightful writers of our time.
Cormac McCarthy - The Stonemason
The Stonemason is a profoundly moving drama set in Louisville, Kentucky in the 1970s, concerning several generations of a black family. McCarthy's narrator, Ben, reveals a painful episode in his family's history, grounding us at the same time in the beautiful dynamic between him and his grandfather, Papaw. Ben, Ben's father, and Papaw are all stonemasons, but in descriptions of "the trade" we learn as much about this family's capacity for love as we do about constructing sound foundations for houses, barns and bridges. Papaw's knowledge about stonemasonry is analogous to his deep spiritual wisdom, and Ben recognizes both as he looks back on his apprenticeship in the "trade at which I thoughtmyself a master and of which I stood in darkest ignorance. And as I came to know him ... As I came to know him ... Oh I could hardly believe my good fortune. I swore then I'dcleave to that old man like a bride. I swore he'd take nothing to his grave." Papaw's son Big Ben and great-grandson Soldier do not respond as whole-heartedly to the old man's wealth of knowledge and patient guidance and the tragedy of the story is largely rooted in this fact. Both of these characters have lost connection with the work of their hands and by association with the earth, their family, and themselves. They are profoundly dissatisfied. Of his father, Ben later wonders, "Why could he not see the worth of that which he had laid aside and the poverty of all he hungered for? Why could he not see that he too was blest?" The Stonemason reveals afresh the mastery of character, plot, pathos, and the poetic facility for language that distinguishes Cormac McCarthy's fiction, and which recently earned him the National Book Award for his bestselling novel, All The Pretty Horses.
Cormac McCarthy - Child of God
Scuttling down the mountain with the thing on his back he looked like a man beset by some ghast succubus, the dead girl riding him with legs bowed akimbo like a monstrous frog." Child of God must be the most sympathetic portrayal of necrophilia in all of literature. The hero, Lester Ballard, is expelled from his human family and ends up living in underground caves, which he peoples with his trophies: giant stuffed animals won in carnival shooting galleries and the decomposing corpses of his victims. Cormac McCarthy's much-admired prose is suspenseful, rich with detail, and yet restrained, even delicate, in its images of Lester's activities. So tightly focused is the story on this one "child of God" that it resembles a myth, or parable. "You could say that he's sustained by his fellow men, like you.... A race that gives suck to the maimed and the crazed, that wants their wrong blood in its history and will have it
Cormac McCarthy - Outer Dark
Outer Dark is a novel at once fabular and starkly evocative, set is an unspecified place in Appalachia, sometime around the turn of the century. A woman bears her brother's child, a boy; he leaves the baby in the woods and tells her he died of natural causes. Discovering her brother's lie, she sets forth alone to find her son. Both brother and sister wander separately through a countryside being scourged by three terrifying and elusive strangers, headlong toward an eerie, apocalyptic resolution.
Cormac McCarthy - The Crossing
The opening section of The Crossing, book two of the Border Trilogy, features perhaps the most perfectly realized storytelling of Cormac McCarthy's celebrated career. Like All the Pretty Horses, this volume opens with a teenager's decision to slip away from his family's ranch into Mexico. In this case, the boy is Billy Parham, and the catalyst for his trip is a wolf he and his father have trapped, but that Billy finds himself unwilling to shoot. His plan is to set the animal loose down south instead. This is a McCarthy novel, not Old Yeller, and so Billy's trek inevitably becomes more ominous than sweet. It boasts some chilling meditations on the simple ferocity McCarthy sees as necessary for all creatures who aim to continue living. But Billy is McCarthy's most loving--and therefore damageable--character, and his story has its own haunted melancholy. Billy eventually returns to his ranch. Then, finding himself and his world changed, he returns to Mexico with his younger brother, and the book begins meandering. Though full of hypnotically barren landscapes and McCarthy's trademark western-gothic imagery (like the soldier who sucks eyes from sockets), these latter stages become tedious at times, thanks partly to the female characters, who exist solely as ghosts to haunt the men. But that opening is glorious, and the whole book finally transcends its shortcomings to achieve a grim and poignant grandeur. --Glen Hirshberg
Haruki Murakami - Kafka on the Shore
Kafka on the Shore follows the fortunes of two remarkable characters. Kafka Tamura runs away from home at fifteen, under the shadow of his father's dark prophesy. The aging Nakata, tracker of lost cats, who never recovered from a bizarre childhood affliction, finds his pleasantly simplified life suddenly turned upside down. Their parallel odysseys are enriched throughout by vivid accomplices and mesmerising dramas. Cats converse with people; fish tumble from the sky; a ghostlike pimp deploys a Hegel-spouting girl of the night; a forest harbours soldiers apparently un-aged since WWII. There is a savage killing, but the identity of both victim and killer is a riddle. Murakami's new novel is at once a classic tale of quest, but it is also a bold exploration of mythic and contemporary taboos, of patricide, of mother-love, of sister-love. Above all it is an entertainment of a very high order.
Toni Morrison - Love
May, Christine, Heed, Junior, Vida - even L - all women obsessed by Bill Cosey. More than the wealthy owner of the famous Cosey Hotel and Resort, he shapes their yearnings for father, husband, lover, guardian, friend, yearnings that dominate the lives of these women long after his death. Yet, while he is both the void in, and the centre of, their stories, he himself is driven by secret forces - a troubled past and a spellbinding woman named Celestial. This audacious vision of the nature of love - its appetite, its sublime possession, its dread - is rich in characters and striking scenes, and in its profound understanding of how alive the past can be. "Love" is a major addition to the canon of one of the world's literary masters.
Toni Morrison - Song of Solomon
This is the story of Macon ''Milkman'' Dead, as he makes a voyage of rediscovery, travelling southwards geographically and inwards spiritually. Through the enlightenment of one man the novel recapitulates the history of slavery and liberation.
Cormac McCarthy - The Orchard Keeper
An American classic, The Orchard Keeper is the first novel by one of America's finest novelists and author of the critically acclaimed national bestseller All the Pretty Horses. Set in a small, remote community in rural Tennessee, it tells the story of a young boy and the outlaw bootlegger who, unbeknownst to either of them, has killed the boy's father.
Suzanne Collins - The Hunger Games
First in the ground-breaking HUNGER GAMES trilogy. Set in a dark vision of the near future, a terrifying reality TV show is taking place. Twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a lve event called The Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed. When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forwar to take her younger sister's place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. Fo her, survival is second nature.
Cormac McCarthy - The Gardener's Son
In the Spring of 1975 the film director Richard Pearce approached Cormac McCarthy with the idea of writing a screenplay. Though already a widely acclaimed novelist, the author of such modern classics as The Orchard Keeper and Child of God, McCarthy had never before written a screenplay. Using nothing more than a few photographs in the footnotes to a 1928 biography of a famous pre-Civil War industrialist as inspiration, the author and Pearce together roamed the mill towns of the South researching their subject. One year later McCarthy finished The Gardener's Son,a taut, riveting drama of impotence, rage, and ultimately violence spanning two generations of mill owners and workers, fathers and sons, during the rise and fall of one of America's most bizarre utopian industrial experiments. Produced as a two-hour film and broadcast on PBS in 1976, The Gardener's Son recieved two Emmy Award nominations and was shown at the Berlin and Edinburgh Film Festivals. This is the first appearance of the film script in book form. Set in Graniteville, South Carolina, The Gardener's Son is the tale of two families: the Greggs, a wealthy family that owns and operates the local cotton mill, and the McEvoys, a family of mill workers beset by misfortune. The action opens as Robert McEvoy, a young mill worker, is having his leg amputated -- the limb mangled in an accident rumored to have been caused by James Gregg, son of the mill's founder. McEvoy, crippled and isolated, grows into a man with a "troubled heart"; consumed by bitterness and anger, he deserts both his job and his family. Returning two years later at the news of his mother's terminal illness, Robert McEvoy arrives only to confront the grave diggers preparing her final resting place. His father, the mill's gardener, is now working on the factory line, the gardens forgotten. These proceedings stoke the slow burning rage McEvoy carries within him, a fury that ultimately consumes both the McEvoys and the Greggs.
Chuck Palahniuk - Fight Club
Every weekend, in basements and parking lots across the country, young men with good white-collar jobs and absent fathers take off their shoes and shirts and fight each other barehanded for as long as they have to. Then they go back to those jobs with blackened eyes and loosened teeth and the sense that they can handle anything. Fight Club is the invention of Tyler Durden, projectionist, waiter and dark, anarchic genius. And it's only the beginning of his plans for revenge on a world where cancer support groups have the corner on human warmth.
Cormac McCarthy - All the Pretty Horses
Part bildungsroman, part horse opera, part meditation on courage and loyalty, this beautifully crafted novel won the National Book Award in 1992. The plot is simple enough. John Grady Cole, a 16-year-old dispossessed Texan, crosses the Rio Grande into Mexico in 1949, accompanied by his pal Lacey Rawlins. The two precocious horsemen pick up a sidekick--a laughable but deadly marksman named Jimmy Blevins--encounter various adventures on their way south and finally arrive at a paradisiacal hacienda where Cole falls into an ill-fated romance. Readers familiar with McCarthy's Faulknerian prose will find the writing more restrained than in Suttree and Blood Meridian. Newcomers will be mesmerized by the tragic tale of John Grady Cole's coming of age.
Paul Auster - The Brooklyn Follies
Nathan Glass has come to Brooklyn to die. Divorced, retired, estranged from his only daughter, the former life insurance salesman seeks only solitude and anonymity. Then Glass encounters his long-lost nephew, Tom Wood, who is working in a local bookstore. Through Tom and his charismatic boss, Harry, Nathan's world gradually broadens to include a new set of acquaintances, which leads him to a reckoning with his past.
Paul Auster - Invisible
Sinuously constructed in four interlocking parts, Invisible opens in New York City in the spring of 1967 when twenty-year-old Adam Walker, an aspiring poet and student at Columbia University meets the enigmatic Frenchman Rudolf Born, and his silent and seductive girlfriend Margot. Before long, Walker finds himself caught in a perverse triangle that leads to a sudden, shocking act of violence that will alter the course of his life. Three different narrators tell the story, as it travels in time from 1967 to 2007 and moves from New York to Paris and to a remote Caribbean island in a story of unbridled sexual hunger and a relentless quest for justice. With uncompromising insight, Auster takes us to the shadowy borderland between truth and memory, authorship and identity to produce a work of unforgettable power that confirms his reputation as one of America's most spectacularly inventive writers.
Chuck Palahniuk - Diary
Diary takes the form of a 'coma diary' kept by one Misty Wilmot as her husband lies senseless in hospital after a suicide attempt. Once she was an art student dreaming of creativity and freedom; now, after marrying Peter at at school and being brought back to once quaint, now tourist-overrun Waytansea Island, she's been reduced to the condition of a resort hotel maid. Peter, it turns out, has been hiding rooms in houses he's refurbished and srawling vile messages all over the walls. Angry homeowners are suing, and Misty's dreams of artistic greatness are in ashes. But then, as if posessed by the spirit of Maura Kinkaid, a fabled Waytansea artist of the nineteenth century, Misty begins painting again, compulsively. The canvases are taken away by her mother in law and her doctor, who seem to have a plan for Misty - and for all those annoying tourists...
Jennifer Weiner - In Her Shoes
Meet Rose Feller. She's thirty years old and a high-powered attorney with a secret passion for romance novels. She has an exercise regime she's going to start next week, and she dreams of a man who will slide off her glasses, gaze into her eyes, and tell her that she's beautiful. She also dreams of getting her fantastically screwed-up little sister to get her life together. Meet Rose's sister, Maggie. Twenty-eight years old, drop-dead gorgeous and only occasionally employed, Maggie sings backup in a band called Whiskered Biscuit. Although her dreams of big-screen stardom haven't progressed past her left hip's appearance in a Will Smith video, Maggie dreams of fame and fortune -- and of getting her dowdy big sister to stick to a skin-care regime. These two women with nothing in common but a childhood tragedy, shared DNA, and the same size feet, are about to learn that their family is more different than they ever imagined, and that they're more alike than they'd ever believe. In Her Shoes -- Jennifer Weiner's follow-up to her critically acclaimed debut, Good in Bed -- observes Rose and Maggie, the brain and the beauty, as they make journeys of discovery that take them from the streets of Philadelphia to Ivy League libraries to a "retirement community for active seniors" in Boca Raton. Along the way, they'll encounter a wild cast of characters -- from a stepmother who's into recreational Botox to a small, disdainful pug with no name. They'll borrow shoes and clothes and boyfriends, and make peace with their most intimate enemies -- each other. Funny and poignant, richly detailed and wrenchingly real, In Her Shoes will speak to anyone who has endured the bonds of big -- or little -- sisterhood, or longed for a life different from the one the world has dictated, and dreamed of trying something else on for size.
Jodi Picoult - Keeping Faith
When seven-year-old Faith White and her mother, Mariah, swing by the house on the way to ballet class, they find that Daddy is home and he's brought a playmate. This is not the first time he's been caught cheating. After the fuss and feathers have settled and Dad has moved out, Faith begins talking to an imaginary friend who, it seems, is God. And God is not male but female. Faith is able to effect miraculous cures and is also occasionally afflicted with stigmata. When the media gets wind of this, the circus begins. The local rabbi takes an interest (Faith and Mariah are technically Jewish), and the local Catholic priest pays several inquiring visits. There is also a gaggle of psychologists. Throw in a professional atheist for the romance angle and a vicious custody fight with an egomaniacal lawyer, and you have a riveting read.
Michael Cunningham - Specimen Days
In each section of Michael Cunningham's bold new novel, his first since The Hours, we encounter the same group of characters: a young boy, an older man, and a young woman. "In the Machine" is a ghost story that takes place at the height of the industrial revolution, as human beings confront the alienating realities of the new machine age. "The Children's Crusade," set in the early twenty-first century, plays with the conventions of the noir thriller as it tracks the pursuit of a terrorist band that is detonating bombs, seemingly at random, around the city. The third part, "Like Beauty," evokes a New York 150 years into the future, when the city is all but overwhelmed by refugees from the first inhabited planet to be contacted by the people of Earth. Presiding over each episode of this interrelated whole is the prophetic figure of the poet Walt Whitman, who promised his future readers, "It avails not, neither time or place... I am with you, and know how it is." Specimen Days is a genre-bending, haunting, and transformative ode to life in our greatest city and a meditation on the direction and meaning of America's destiny. It is a work of surpassing power and beauty by one of the most original and daring writers at work today.