Wednesday, September 16, 2009

"The Known World"

The first novel I've read in months is The Known World, written by Edward P. Jones, and winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2004. It's a wide-ranging tale at the center of which are free, black owners of black slaves in antebellum Virginia, which sounds like a gimmick, but isn't. After twenty pages or so of adapting myself to Norton's narrative strategy of weaving deftly among characters, places, and times--all of which may shift dramatically from one sentence to the next, as these elements also shifted sharply in James Agee's sentences in A Death in the Family, a favorite novel from my boyhood--I have found myself grateful to luxuriate within the interior spaces of characters' interior lives. Drama, which I've read much more of than fiction during the past couple of years, rarely makes this possible, though there have been exceptions in my reading--e.g., Horton Foote, and some delicate moments in Shakespearean monologues. Short stories (Poe, Bradbury, Hemingway) and novels (Tolkien, Malamud, Hemingway) were the first books I loved. I'm happy to be back to them a bit.

Other fiction I have read in the past couple of years has been by Cormac McCarthy, Ian McEwan, and Richard Ford, the usual suspects for a male reader of my age and demographics.

I found The Known World by asking a used bookstore clerk in New Orleans to recommend contemporary, local authors--anyone but Ann Rice. I highly recommend Mr. Jones.

1 comment:

suzy vitello soulé said...

It's now on my list.. Thanks, dude.