Three Faves for the Weekend

In the last couple weeks, I've had a run at new books by three favourites of mine; Lionel Shriver, Lauren Davis, and Jonathan Tropper.

And while they're vastly different books, (Tropper is always a hoot, Shriver seldom is and Lauren has written a book unlike anything she's ever done) they are all chiefly populated by resolutely nasty, miserable peevish people. This plays demonstrably against type because the blockbuster driven mechanisms of the current publishing industry are so dominant now that the hunt is on for ever more plucky, likable leads solving their problems by force of will, or with luck, stumbling across a benevolent outside force that does it for them. That was most often the way, as the big revenue producing book at the company often paid the bills so said company could publish the "marquis" title, even if the marquis title only sold around awards time. There's nothing wrong with that, and never was; but there's a good deal more pressure now for a manuscript to have a ready audience before the birth and a certain mindset at the production level can't help but come from that. I often wonder if the overwhelming need for narrative pleasantries is a particularly bookish trait, as network TV in recent years has gone in the other direction entirely. No one would confuse the Bluths, Walter White or most of the cast of the Wire as finishing school grads or debutantes.

The sheer breadth (thankfully) of books on offer still means that one can always find diamonds in the rough as it were. The mercurial folks at Coach House Press were smart enough last year to bring forth Tamara Berger's Maidenhead back when everyone and their mother (grandmother?) was reading Fifty Shades of Grey and they've followed it up with a re-release of her earlier works in one volume, Little Cat.

While Fifty Shades cashed in like nothing before it as entirely sanctified, if very poorly written pornography, Tamara Berger just works, period.

All this is just to suggest that the good stuff is out there, and it's refreshing to hang out with the misanthropes from time to time.

-- Dave