Dance With Snakes – Horacio Castellanos Moya
Where the dull wind of lesser books merely makes them consent to turn their pages, Moya’s Dance With Snakes pulls the reader in like a scarf in a propeller. Reading like a kind of Rabelaisian Grand Theft Auto, Dance With Snakes is a sustained and violent surrealistic binge told in an oddly contrasting minimalist, documentary style. It is a disconcertingly humorous tale rife with identity theft, legerdemain, gratuitous murder, stumped gumshoes, opportunistic journalists, that refracts the socio-political unease of El Salvador after more than a decade of civil war. On the surface at least, it might be the most unliterary book you read all year, but don’t be fooled: Moya is a first-rate satirist who conveys and explodes the milieu and trials of the lost and damned with a propulsive and controlled urgency. He belongs on the shelf next to such contemporary greats as Vollmann, Bolano, and Brautigan.
Blow-Up and Other Stories – Julio CortÃ¡zar
â€œAnyone who doesnâ€™t read CortÃ¡zar is doomed. Not to read him is a grave invisible disease which in time can have terrible consequences. Something similar to a man who had never tasted peaches. He would be quietly getting sadder, noticeably paler, and probably little by little, he would lose his hair. I donâ€™t want those things to happen to me, and so I greedily devour all the fabrications, myths, contradictions, and mortal games of the great Julio CortÃ¡zar.â€ – Pablo Neruda
War Music – Christopher Logue
For a work of forty years in the making, Logue’s rearrangements and adaptations of Books 1 through 16 of Homer’s Iliad do not renunciate the tale; they carry the essence of it with a modern voice that charges the original text with new meaning:
“Picture the east Aegean sea by night,
And on a beach aslant its shimmering
Upwards of 50,000 men
Asleep like spoons beside their lethal Fleet…”
A work for lovers of the classic, War Music’s textual theatrics and lyrics read as though it were pieced together joyfully and painstakingly, to the point of standing boldly apart from Homer, without pretensions.
Given – Wendell Berry
An ethics of care in verse. Written with artful simplicity, these intimate and poignant poems reflect Berry’s deep and abiding reverence for nature, God, and the Kentucky community in which he resides. Berry is a conservative in the old and true sense with a steadfast moral obligation to the land, to the commons, to human dignity who expresses a distaste for facetious progress and academic obscurantism. In an age of indiscriminate yay-saying and Corporate hubris, Berry is a voice of moderation, clarity, and reason. He is an Emerson or Thoreau for our times.
Frost – Thomas Bernhard
Bernhard’s prose is a force of nature, as devastating and as inevitable as an earthquake or a rock-slide. He is a neurotic genius, whose hypnotic and unforgiving novels, often written in one unbroken paragraph and taking the form of an uninterrupted dramatic monologue, are monumental testaments to intellectual and artistic obsessions in their various guises. Frost, Bernhard’s first novel, and the work that brought him renewed International acclaim in recent years, is the story of a friendship between a young man beginning his medical career and a painter in his final days. As always, the relatively plain domestic situation is a transfigured occasion for Bernhard’s trademark unapologetic wit and probing psychological analysis. To read Bernhard is to be enthralled by a singular literary sensibility: caustic, mercilessly honest, hilarious, moving, unforgettable.