The President's Fiction Vacation
President Obama is on vacation this week, and since he is our first "writer president," he has taken along a stack of five books to Martha's Vineyard, where he (along with the fate of the free world) is sipping frosty beers, muttering truisms to salty townies in a voice calculated to elevate, and staring at the ocean so hard that his crow's feet creak.

According to Time Magazine, three of the five books that Obama has carried along with him are novels. Here's the three fiction books that will be shaping American politics for the next year:

"Lush Life," by Richard Price

"The victim -- the one who lives -- is Eric Cash, in his own mind an emerging writer but known to the world as a veteran restaurant manager. In his mid-30s, the descendant of Jewish ghetto-dwellers who lived and died on the same city blocks where Eric is riding out his undiscovered phase along with 20,000 other tip-dependent would-be screenwriters, he heads out one night with two pals into the Disneyhood and suddenly finds himself in Scorceseland. A gun comes out, a brown finger on its trigger, and the next thing Eric knows he's in the ugly room recounting the mugging and murder of his friend Ike to a female officer, Yolanda, and a more traditionally male and Irish fellow, Matty Clark. Eric thinks he's a witness but really he's a suspect, and Price provides the taut, triangular dialogue, which at first sounds a bit like standard noir talk (Price writes for the cable crime drama "The Wire") but soon grows bushier, thornier and taller in a way the screen can't quite contain because of its horizontal orientation but which fits with the verticality of the page and sometimes, as the book goes on, climbs clean off it and up into the sky." -- from The New York Times Book Review

"Plainsong," by Kent Haruf:

"Plainsong's characters span four generations of rural folk, mostly teachers and farmers and kids. Rather than relying upon a progress-driven plot, the novel focuses instead on the moments at which the lives of the townspeople overlap. Two lonely teachers at the high school find solace in each other. A pregnant teenage girl, thrown out of the house by her mother, finds an unlikely home in a farmhouse with two kindly old bachelors. Another set of brothers, ages nine and 10, are abandoned by their mother and spend the rest of the book in a state of confused, unaided longing compounded by the sight of everything from a couple of jerky high school boys "sharing" a girl in an abandoned house to the last days of an elderly woman on their paper route.

"A novel doesn't get more all-American than this; it's as if the whole town sprang readymade from a 1952 Sears catalog. Plainsong makes use of several stereotypes -- the mean older boys at school, the teacher with the heart of gold -- and these characters at points evoke a Norman Rockwellian dream world. Haruf's style, too, has an old-fashioned ring to it. Nearly every chapter ends with a line about the sun or the stars. The stars are invariably hard and bright, high and white, fresh and pure; the country roads are always empty. And yet Haruf is too good a storyteller to let the cliches take over. Despite plenty of opportunities, he never stoops to smarmy." -- from "The Austin Chronicle"

"The Way Home," by George Pelecanos:

"Thomas Flynn is a working-class father, distressed at having to leave his teenage son Chris at a juvenile prison near Washington. But he is adamant: his son must take his punishment for his involvement in a world of street violence, car theft and drugs. Ten years pass, and Chris appears to be reformed. He has a girlfriend, a job (working with his father) and his own apartment. But Chris's old life is to come to the fore again when he comes across some stolen money, with devastating results.

"The compromised, messy world of Pelecanos's characters is realised with the dexterity that we expect. The streets of Washington are the backdrop for a drama that is, at times, redolent of a latter-day Greek tragedy, with redemption won at a very hard price. Themes reach beyond the parameters of the crime novel: what are the limits of the father-son relationship? How do we deal with impossible choices?" -- from "The Independent"

Crime, drugs, murder, teen pregnancy, "girl sharing," New York, Washington, and the Heartland! The President is reading fiction!

Posted by miracle on Thu, 27 Aug 2009 20:17:19 -0400 -- permanent link

The Gallery at LPR
158 Bleecker St., New York, NY
Tuesday, August 5th, 2014

All content c. 2008-2009 by the respective authors.

Site design c. 2009 by sweet sweet design