H&WR: Sept Book Poll

From: Michelle
Sent on: Friday, August 14, 2009 3:31 PM
The last poll for August was nearly a landslide for this month's book. But the runner's up were neck and neck.

So I thought it was only fair to run the poll again. And hopefully we will be able to establish both September and October's books.

Please visit:
Hip & Well Read September Poll

Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk
From Publishers Weekly
Palahniuk's 10th novel (after Snuff) is a potent if cartoonish cultural satire that succeeds despite its stridently confounding prose. A gang of adolescent terrorists trained by an unspecified totalitarian state (the boys and girls are guided by quotations attributed to Marx, Hitler, Augusto Pinochet, Idi Amin, etc.) infiltrate America as foreign exchange students. Their mission: to bring the nation to its knees through Operation Havoc, an act of mass destruction disguised as a science project. Narrated by skinny 13-year-old Pgymy, the propulsive plot deconstructs American fixtures, among them church (religion propaganda distribution outlet), spelling bees (forced battle to list English alphabet letters) and TV news reporters (Horde scavenger feast at overflowing anus of world history), before moving on to a Columbine-like shooting spree by a closeted kid who has fallen in love with the teenage terrorist who raped him in a shopping mall bathroom. Decoding Palahniuk's characteristically scathing observations is a challenge, as Pygmy's narrative voice is unbound by rules of grammar or structure (a typical sentence: Host father mount altar so stance beside bin empty of water), but perseverance is its own perverse reward in this singular, comic accomplishment.

A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
From Publishers Weekly
Literary self-consciousness and technical invention mix unexpectedly in this engaging memoir by Eggers, editor of the literary magazine McSweeney's and the creator of a satiric 'zine called Might, who subverts the conventions of the memoir by questioning his memory, motivations and interpretations so thoroughly that the form itself becomes comic. Despite the layers of ironic hesitation, the reader soon discerns that the emotions informing the book are raw and, more importantly, authentic. After presenting a self-effacing set of "Rules and Suggestions for the Enjoyment of this Book" ("Actually, you might want to skip much of the middle, namely pages[masked]") and an extended, hilarious set of acknowledgments (which include an itemized account of his gross and net book advance), Eggers describes his parents' horrific deaths from cancer within a few weeks of each other during his senior year of college, and his decision to move with his eight year-old brother, Toph, from the suburbs of Chicago to Berkeley, near where his sister, Beth, lives. In California, he manages to care for Toph, work at various jobs, found Might, and even take a star turn on MTV's The Real World. While his is an amazing story, Eggers, now 29, mainly focuses on the ethics of the memoir and of his behavior--his desire to be loved because he is an orphan and admired for caring for his brother versus his fear that he is attempting to profit from his terrible experiences and that he is only sharing his pain in an attempt to dilute it. Though the book is marred by its ending--an unsuccessful parody of teenage rage against the cruel world--it will still delight admirers of structural experimentation and Gen-Xers alike.

Life is Short but Wide by J California Cooper
From Publishers Weekly
With another multigenerational, wonderfully crafted Midwest ensemble cast, Cooper (Wild Stars Seeking Midnight Suns) presents the town of Wideland, Okla., through the eyes of folksy nonagenarian Hattie B. Brown. This community sentinel, though sometimes short on memory, acts as tour guide and historian, introducing the town at the beginning of the 20th century, when the railroad first arrived and, with it, a growing population. Among the new residents, Hattie introduces the industrious, loving African-American cowboy Val Strong and his Cherokee brother-friend Wings; Val's hardened but beautiful wife, Irene Lowell; and their two strong-willed daughters, Rose and Tante. Following the Strong family and their associates through the better part of the 1900s, Hattie finds history running roughshod through their lives, crushing some and strengthening others, introducing new generations and obstacles to love, home and happiness. Cooper's characteristic motherly wit carries an appealing raft of characters through a world tougher than it is tender, but touched with beauty and wisdom.

Out by Natsuo Kirino
From Booklist
A suburban Tokyo woman fed up with her loutish husband kills him in a fit of anger, then confesses her crime to a coworker on the night shift at the boxed-lunch factory. The coworker enlists the help of two other women at the factory to dismember and dispose of the body. Readers beware--Kirino's first mystery to be published in English (it was a best-seller in Japan) involves no madcap female bonding. The tenuous friendship between the four women, all with problems of their own even before becoming accessories to murder, begins to unravel almost immediately. Money changes hands. The body parts are discovered. The police begin asking questions, and a very bad man falsely accused of the crime is determined to find out who really deserves the punishment. The gritty neighborhoods, factories, and warehouses of Tokyo provide a perfect backdrop for this bleak tale of women who are victims of circumstance and intent on self-preservation at all costs.

The Secret Lives of People in Love by Simon Van Booy
From Publishers Weekly
A breadth of experience and setting distinguishes this somber first collection of 18 very short stories by New York-based Van Booy. "Little Birds" is narrated by a teenage boy of uncertain parentage who sketches his life with his devoted foster father, Michel, in working-class Paris: "It is the afternoon of my birthday, but still the morning of my life. I am walking on the Pont des Arts." In "Some Bloom in Darkness," an aging railroad station clerk's witness of a violent scene between a man and woman translates in his mind into an infatuation with a store mannequin. Other tales are set in Rome ("I live in Rome where people sit by fountains and kiss"), small villages in Cornwall or Wales, and in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Los Angeles. Van Booy's characters are shipwrecked by fate and memory but tarry on, like the narrator of "Distant Ships," a lifelong Royal Mail loader who stopped speaking after the death of his son 20 years earlier, or the homeless man chased by ghosts in "The Shepherd on the Rock," who aims to "live out the last of my life" at John F. Kennedy International Airport. These tales have at once the solemnity of myth and the offhandedness of happenstance.

Please vote within this next week!
Hip & Well Read

Cheers,
Michelle

Sign up

Meetup members, Log in

By clicking "Sign up" or "Sign up using Facebook", you confirm that you accept our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy