With respect to Johnny’s sleepers concept, I’d rather name my choices after the espressos that I can no longer have. I’ll call them doppios. Halfway through these books, I was looking forward to being charged-up by the next one. Writers are the best baristas.
Two Friends, Alberto Moravia. This book was an unfinished manuscript found in a suitcase in the basement of the writer’s former home. So much the better that it’s unfinished and contradictory and left in the cellar to age like it’s a fine wine. AM takes a line on his story, drops it after 30 or 40 pages and starts again, then drops the second version and starts on a third. Between these imaginary strands characters shift and change as if you had several versions of the same dream in a single night. It’s like friendship really is if we could live out several dimensions of it at once. And do you really need to have the finished version? I’d rather have three or four versions of the same story without an ending than one story with a decisive conclusion. Love the mess.
There But For The by Ali Smith. Ali Smith’s novel is named after the fragment of a quotation that no one can trace the source of. No, it’s not from the Bible. Let the word games begin. We who are about to be mesmerized salute you. In Ali Smith, the words of the text crawl over your fingers like ants while you are reading the book. Signification breeds monsters and prodigies for you to enjoy.
Three Weeks in December by Audrey Schulman. There are parallel 19th and 21st century plots about two social misfits who bring their problems with them when they undertake counter-intuitive jobs in Africa. A lion and a family of mountain gorillas are characters in the story and treated with sympathy as non-humans. This is a novel with a bibliography. You can admire the research, the discipline. Or you can just read a new kind of adventure novel that you won’t want to put down.
My chaser is Tessa Hadley. The New Yorker is doing a wonderful job of presenting her work. I caught two of her stories in NY this year. TH’s novel, The London Train, shows decent people who stray out of the family orbit and get their partners wrong. Her narrative style can fall into a kind of they say gossip-like cadence that sounds very grateful on the ear. I’ll never forget the scene where a husband and wife sleep in the same unmade bed serially but not together.