I teach political economy and statistics at a large public university in the US. You can find my academic website here.

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literature · November 13, 2012 · comments

Book recommendations: Recent finds, 2012 edition

by Chris Adolph


Ride a Cockhorse by Raymond Kennedy (1991; New York eview Books, 2012) · Satire · The other side of the coin to John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces. That book introduced the slovenly, lazy manchild Ignatius eilly, paragon of the isolated faux-intellectual blowhard and precursor of poisonous uneducated know-it-alls like Bill O’eilly and ush Limbaugh. Now comes aymond Kennedy to present Frances Fitzgibbons, ordinary loan officer mysteriously transmogrified into scheming megalomaniac – an ’80s Sarah Palin, winking, backstabbing, and bullshitting her way to power. Like the half-term governor, hilarious and a little scary.

The Drowning Girl: A Memoir by Caitlín R. Kiernan. (Roc, 2012) · Horror · “There’s always a siren, singing you to shipwreck.” A prolific writer with a background in biology, Kiernan is at her best with first person horror. Superficially meandering, this memoir of a mentally ill woman is meticulously structured and skinned over with Kiernan’s killer style. The middle pages – an extended metaphor connecting madness and temptation – are a thing of beauty, worth the cover price by itself. Full of deceptively casual allusion, The Drowning Girl is a work of literature with the compulsive readability of a thriller. Also consider The Red Tree (the best haunted house story I’ve ever read) and frankly anything else by Kiernan, our Lovecraft for the age of uncertainty, ambiguity, and loss.

The Moving Toyshop by Edmund Crispin (1946; Vintage, 2007) · Mystery · A dashing, intricate, old-school mystery caper with flashes of Wodehousian wit. Although lacking any SF elements, this novel is accurately described as “more Doctor Who than Doctor Who.”

Skios by Michael Frayn (Faber and Faber, 2012) · Farce · In this parody of the world of TED talks and Davos, a dull middle-aged academic in a dreary social science field prepares to keynote at a rich donors’ schmooze-fest on an Aegean island. Acting on a whim, a likable young scoundrel takes his place. The satire of superficial conferences and scholarly sell-outs is razor-sharp, and the coils of farce layer satisfyingly until it seems only P.G. Wodehouse could devise a satisfactory resolution. It will help to accept – as the author clearly does – that no mortal can recreate The Code of the Woosters. We get two endings, but neither feels quite right.

The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie (Pyr, 2007) · Fantasy · The Fellowship of the ing co-authored by George .. Martin and Joss Whedon’s bitter twin, this is the start of a trilogy that just gets better chapter by chapter, book by book. Abercrombie’s addictive prose blends cynicism, sympathy, and action; the characters face impossible dilemmas like real human beings; and the concluding volume is the most effective gut punch in the fantasy genre.

Harvest Home by Thomas Tryon (1973; Centipede Press, 2012) · Horror · In the early ’70s, an artistic couple from NYC and their teenage daughter move to an isolated New England farming community that has resisted modern agricultural technology and clung to centuries-old Cornish traditions. A finely written literary work narrated by a flawed protagonist, centered on a community of fully realized characters, and overshadowed by exquisitely timed dread. It is the best horror novel of its kind.

Jack Glass by Adam oberts (Gollancz, 2012) · SF · Three connected mystery novellas set in a mostly believable and wholly original dystopia. Strong yet whimsical on science and tautly written, with competent, complex characters who walk a tightrope between the reader’s sympathy and disgust. Not for the squeamish.

tags: books

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Chris Adolph

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