Open Wounds

God(s)

My Favorite Novels of 2013

The only book in order is my top choice for the year and one of my favorite of all time (I know its only been out a few months but I read it over two years ago and it rocked my world then and continues to so do or do so or doe-si-doe). The rest are arranged in the order that I thought of them.

wingerWinger, by Andrew Smith. This is a great book that perfectly captures the voice of adolescence. Ryan Dean’s voice is wonderful and authentic and did I mention there’s rugby in the book? Everyone should read this book. It is poetic and brutally powerful.

The Chaos Walking Trilogy, by Patrick Ness (including The Knife of Never Letting Go, The Ask and the Answer, and Monsters of Men). I’m cheating. This is three books but they really are one epic science fiction story that will make you cry and break your heart and keep you turning the pages right up until the end. This is how great sociological science fiction is written. And it happens to be a YA book. The gender politics (everyone can hear what men think but nobody can hear what women think) and the commentary on the nature of being human cuts through you right from the beginning. Then there’s the alien race and consciousness. Wow.

Railsea, by China Miéville. I have to say right from the start that this author is not everyone’s cup of tea and… I read another book by him that I liked and another that I couldn’t finish (rare for me). What does this mean? The language is difficult to get the hang of but once I did I really found this story of White Whale hunting and metaphor mapping to be a wonder. But the language… stay with it. I found it an original work of really great and unique science fiction.

11-22-6311/22/63, by Stephen King. Two friends recommended this to me. I held off until I was ready to travel to Seattle and had 5 hours on a plane facing me there and 5 hours back. So… I have to say this is vintage King writing historical fiction with a vengeance. I loved the main character and would have followed him anywhere after the first couple of pages. Early hook, King never let me go. Time travel, butterfly effect, the 1960s (I was born in 61) all used to good effect. I was sad to see this one end and I’ve recommended to everyone I know since. It’s a long novel and that is a very good thing.

The Wind Through the Keyhole, by Stephen King. First know that I love a good western and I love the Dark Tower Series. Given that then you can understand why I loved this King coming of age again story. It is chilling and beautifully written.

outOut of my Mind, by Sharon Draper. The story of a disabled child stuck in a wheel chair, unable to speak or communicate yet incredibly smart and aware of what’s going on around her and nobody knows it. This story is so powerful. It’s told from inside the young girl’s head, how she sees and knows the world rather than  from the outside in and this makes the experience raw and challenging. I especially liked the ending and its realistic, no Disney fireworks conclusion.

The Dust of a Hundred Dogs, by A.S. King. Reality Boy was terrific too (so I’ll sneak in a quick recommendation as A.S. King rocks with all her books) but I have to tell you Dust of 100 dogs just rocked my boat. I’m a sucker for a western but I’m also a bigger sucker for a pirate story. And this is a love story also! This is told from the protagonist’s point of view from three unique angles (many dogs perspectives, a modern-day teenager, and a pirate from the days of swashbuckling). This is not a story for the squeamish (rape and pillaging abound) but man did it grab me. I saw the ending coming but felt so satisfied when it arrived that I didn’t care.

Calico Joe, by John Grisham. I know I know. John Grisham? Hey, what can I say. I really enjoyed this baseball book about father-son relationships. I can’t believe how fascinating this story was. My father-in-law hated this and I loved it. The insight into why players do what they do was terrific.

buddhaBuddha, by Osamu Tezuka (including Volumes 1-8, yes, you read that right, 1-8). I’m cheating but I’m not really cheating. It’s one long epic graphic novel in 8 volumes. And it’s the story of Buddha. And the covers were all designed by Chip Kidd. How can you go wrong? This is the Buddha story with a vengeance. It’s all manga from the grandfather of manga, filled with inside jokes about school in Japan, and part Monty Python’s The Life of Brian. It’s also a deep book about religion, it’s uses and misuses and yes, about why we fear death and how we as human beings can come to terms with it. My son and I read these together. Take your time reading the story and enjoy the pen and ink on the full-page panels. The detail is incredible. This is an amazing lifetime achievement.

The Drowned Cities, by Paulo Bacigalupi. Even more brutal and disturbing than Ship Breaker – more violent if you can believe it. And so disturbing reading about children making war on children. This is total heart of darkness time. Keep one eye half closed as you read, but do read it and hope that Bacigalupi writes another story that takes us back to this world. Just… no more chopping off of fingers, please! Ouch.

Well, that it for 2013.

I’m looking forward to the reading list for 2014.

And my own work moves forward, slowly, but surely. If I can just keep at it I should have two books in to my agent this year. Fingers crossed. Nose to the grindstone.

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Z is for Zeus

Do you believe in God(s) ? It’s an interesting question and one I find in my reading that few authors deal with. Maybe it’s just the books I’m choosing.

Recently I read Gone, by Michael Grant and although it’s a real page turner one of the things that struck me (besides being a bit scared of the darkness inside, I’m not afraid to admit it!) was how several of the characters had faith in God (a male it seemed and organized Christian God). It wasn’t a large part of the book but it was part of the fabric of the universe for the main characters. What happened to them challenged some of their faith in a God. It made sense for that town and those characters but I am so unused to a discussion of God that it stood out for me.

My son wants to read Gone (after reading The Magnificent Twelve he thinks Michael Grant is the funniest writer in the universe) but we won’t let him. He’s very upset about this as he’s turning 10 in three days and has read Ship Breaker (my fault), The Hunger Games (my fault – I’m a bad Daddy), and all the Harry Potter books (okay – now he earned the right to read them so back off!). My wife, who is infinitely more wise than me, is the one who put her foot down and said no, not now, to Gone.

You see in our community a boy recently died. He was thirteen years old. The whole story is not known as we do not know the family well, but we had been to their home a couple of times with other families for school social events. The boy got an infection that turned into meningitis and he died. It all happened in one week and I am still shaking a bit about it because, as a parent, my first thought was – what if this happened to my son? These kinds of things make you question God(s)/Goddess(es) and faith. My son barely remembered the boy as it had been a few years since they’d last seen each other and the boy was three years older. My son seemed okay with the news. It seemed to pass by him and through him with only a small ripple. He was more concerned for us then himself, it seemed.

So in Gone (this is not a spoiler as it happens on page one) everyone over the age of 14 poofs – disappears and the world that Michael Grant creates is scary and fascinating. But not right now for my son. No poofs. Maybe next year or in the fall with some time and perspective. It is impossible to answer the question, why did a child die? How do you find a reason for that?

The book I’m working on now is about God, tangentially. It is about loss of faith and maybe (I don’t know yet how it will work out) gaining of faith back. It’s a real challenge for me as I was born a Jew, brought up Methodist, tried some Catholicism (youth groups have girls in them and I was a teenager but I really did go on that retreat to ask some questions of the priest – which I did. For example: Why do you say there’s only one God if there’s a father, son, and holy ghost? Isn’t that three? And what about the virgin Mary? What’s up with that? I was not popular and I did not get a concrete answer. I digress.), wandered into paganism, studied Buddhism and Hinduism and presently believe in a higher cosmic spirit of the feminine kind.

What I love about Greek mythology and all polytheistic practices is the ability to have all these different aspects of the great cosmic soul. Zeus of the lightning bolts needs all the other Gods and Goddesses to balance him out. They balance each other, yin and yang, water and fire, a satvic existence on the higher plane. without balance there is chaos. And yet in our lives, there is chaos. It seems in one way or another, in one corner of the world or another, with violence and death there is chaos. There are plateaus of balance and seemingly random acts of chaos. It makes me wonder as a parent and it makes me wonder as a human and it makes me wonder as a writer.

This is my last post on the A-Z challenge and I’ve made it through 26 posts relating to or pertaining to things that are Greek, at least from my perspective. I hope you’ve enjoyed the journey even half as much as I have.