Sunday, September 11, 2011

Magical and comical worlds to explore

The Night CircusFirst of all, I will pester you to read this book: Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus. My review in the StarTribune can be summed up thusly: Love! If any part of you enjoys fable or romance or darkness lurking beneath the surface or magic or longing or kittens, you will be transported by this novel. I read it in July in order to review it, and it has thoroughly stuck with me in the ensuing months. Jim Dale (whose name is always followed, perhaps by law now, with the words: "narrator of the Harry Potter audiobooks") did the narration on this, and I'm eager to re-experience it with his voice once my library gets ahold of it.

MaineIf your sense of humor is caustic or your sense of family is complicated by many generations worth of bad behavior, check out Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan. Sullivan gives us three generations of women in different parts of the country who come together at the matriarch's beach house in Maine. I most enjoyed that with each of the four women, their POV was so strong and sympathetic that I felt about the other three the same way the current woman did. And then we'd jump to the grandmother or the sister-in-law for her POV, and everything took on a new light. All of the women are petty and flawed yet passionate and true in their own ways, and as they come together in the present, we can see how fallout from the past shapes them all. Plus: dollhouses! (Okay, so, my mom designed this huge amazing Victorian dollhouse for my sister and I when we were little, and had the shop cut the pieces, and together we built it, and bought all kinds of amazing little working lights and thumbnail-sized shingles and such. It isn't complete. But it's still astounding, and one of these days.... Maybe my sister's little daughter will inspire us to return to it.)

My Lucky Star. Joe KeenanFor more straight-up wit, Joe Keenan's comic novel My Lucky Star is just the ticket. I need to hunt down Keenan's earlier novels, which are about the same characters, all narrated by struggling wordsmith Phil. In this novel, his fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants charming ex-boyfriend Gilbert manages to lure him and their friend Claire from New York to Hollywood to work on a screenplay for a couple of the hottest names in town. Rabid gossip, blackmail, star-gazing, and hijinks ensue. Keenan's pedigree (writer for Frazier, among other things) allows him to present some all-too-believable scandalmongering of the fictional variety. It's very fast and farcical, and though if I were Gilbert's Facebook friend I'd hope to be wise enough to unfollow him, seeing them work their way out of deeper and deeper holes is a lot of fun.

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