I used to think that ‘The Corrections’ was the greatest thing I’d ever read, but I’ll have to say that ‘A Fraction of the Whole’ is better than ‘The Corrections’. Toltz did it in one book. Franzen took two to get ‘The Corrections’ out into the world. Granted, you have your whole life to write your first novel, but my God, ‘A Fraction of the Whole’ does things in 530 pages that most writers can’t do in a lifetime.
Bondurant does a great job in this novel shifting from magnificent imagery to violent outbursts of fury and drunkenness. The brothers – Howard, the war-haunted giant, Forrest, the mythic survivor, and Jack, the fearful dreamer – traverse a hard-scrabble Appalachian world where liquor becomes trade and livelihood, courage and shame. The story is framed by the appearance of writer Sherwood Anderson, on magazine assignment, as he tries to suss out the truth to the moonshine trade, which everyone knows about and about which no one will talk, and the personal tragedies and political corruption that accompanied it.
Two meth-head Cape Town gangsters on an unrelated errand break into Jack Burns’ house and end up dead. Of course, he can’t call the cops, since he and his family are on the lam from U.S. authorities. So, he disposes of the bodies, and, as we know from many other thrillers, sets a chain of events into action that endangers his family, puts him on the run again, and enters conflicts and accords with characters from Cape Town’s dark underbelly.
Why do I love first novels? Because writing one is like trying to rebirth our take on life. And the next best thing to writing a first novel is to be able to read one. A restoring vision, and for the technically inclined, a re-imagining of the art of writing…trying to find a fresh approach to storytelling. For all the creative ingenuity of a good memoir, the novel, especially a debut, is like alchemy, a transformation of what could be. Our realism would rot away unless it was repeatedly invented: like God is said in medieval theology to be creating the world, not all at once in a big bang, but continually.
As for Pharaonic civilization I will not talk of the conquests and the building of empires. This has become a worn out pride the mention of which modern conscience, thank God, feels uneasy about. Nor will I talk about how it was guided for the first time to the existence of God and its ushering in the dawn of human conscience. This is a long history and there is not one of you who is not acquainted with the prophet-king Akhenaton. I will not even speak of this civilization’s achievements in art and literature, and its renowned miracles: the Pyramids and the Sphinx and Karnak. For he who has not had the chance to see these monuments has read about them and pondered over their forms.
The Great Man focuses on a great painter’s inspiration, namely the women in his life. I thought this was a very interesting track to take especially since a story about a painter is nothing new. There isn’t a stone unturned in this story, and it’s subtlety and shades of emotional nuance wisely crafted by an author who makes it look and sound like she’s been an active participant in the art world for years. Right away we’re thrown into the discussion of what makes a great painting, where the artist gets his creative inspiration and what exactly that inspiration does all day while the famous artists works.
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