Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Best Books of 2016ish: (2 of 3)

Following on from part one.

Europe in Winter, by Dave Hutchinson (2016)

 The third in a series, and what a series: some of the finest, cleverest, politically-minded SF of recent years. The ideas of nationhood and nationalism, citizenship, topology and topography, parallel worlds and information all get an intriguing examination, and it's very witty and thoroughly enjoyable. Hutchinson has a great fondness for Alan Furst, another extraordinarily underrated writer, and if you like one of them I can't see how you couldn't like the other. Get the first in the series, Europe in Autumn, and binge from there.

The Last Wolf, by László Krasznahorkai (2016)

In recent years I have become obsessed with Hungarian literature, for the simple reason that pretty much everything from that country which has made it into English has been excellent (an awful book by Peter Nadas aside). And every discussion of modern Hungarian literature comes around to
László Krasznahorka, who is astonishing. The Last Wolf, a novella published back-to-back with the related short story Herman, is a perfect introduction to his work: a bleakly funny story unspooling in a long single sentence about a washed-up academic involved, possibly through mistaken identity, in a search for the site of the death of the last wolf in Europe. 

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?, by Kathleen Collins (2016)


A slim gathering of what seems to be the entire fictional output of an accomplished filmmaker who died young in 1988, whose work doesn't seem to have been collected before (the introduction doesn't really explain much, telling you more about the introducer than Collins). Extremely perceptive, occasionally harrowing, sometimes funny and very, very clear-eyed about American race relations, it makes depressingly clear how little things have really changed in recent decades.

Small Acts of Disappearance, by Fiona Wright (2015)

An Australian poet's memoir in essays about her experiences with severe eating disorder, from its beginnings to her hospitalisation, entwined with reflections on books and travel and much else. A genuinely fascinating analysis from the inside of a condition that words usually struggle to contend with.

Gypsy, by Carter Scholz (2015)

I'd never read Carter Scholz before I read Gypsy, a pretty much perfect SF novella about a group of people attempting to flee a dying Earth to colonise an exoplanet. Afterwards I quickly got hold of and read everything of his that is available, which sadly consists of only a novel (excellent) and one-and-a-half collections of stories (also excellent). He is an extraordinary writer, and Gypsy is a wonderful example of why epic literature can still work with only 100 pages.

Eleven Hours, by Pamela Erens (2016)

A novel that takes entirely during the eleven hours that a woman is in painful labour, spooling out to encompass her life story and that of her midwife. How did nobody think of this idea for a novel before? It's so simple, and done so well, and manages the feat of turning something that happens all the time to all sorts of women into a story with thriller-like levels of suspense.

Moonstone (The Boy Who Never Was), by Sjón (2016)

Do you want to read about a Reykjavik rentboy obsessed with the dawning world of cinema, and beautifully written depictions of his life as a body removal worker during the 1918 Spanish flu outbreak? You do, trust me. Another example of a whole, wonderfully visualised world being brought to life in a bare minimum of pages.

More to come...

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