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As I say every August, I can hardly believe another year has gone by. As I scroll through the books I’ve read and written about this year, there have been some real gems. We the Animals! Buddha in the Attic! Sweet Talk! 

I also read all of Tayari Jones’s books, so I was excited to see her read last week in Brooklyn. Excited enough, in fact, that I sat in an extraordinarily crowded, sweltering bar through three readings and a break that stretched nearly forty minutes long waiting for her turn. She assumed the microphone with her usual warmth and humor (when she stumbled over her words early in her passage, she said that the problem with reading late is that you’ve been having cocktails the whole evening…) and read a chapter from her latest, Silver Sparrow, which is my favorite of her books. I was sitting at a table with strangers who had never heard of her; after she read, they were all fans.

She wasn’t the only reason I stuck out that reading, though–Victor LaValle closed out the evening and I was eager to see him, too. He wasn’t on my radar before a few weeks ago, which is a little shocking / embarrassing because he’s a pretty successful writer from QUEENS. Read the rest of this entry »

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A Member of the Wedding, by Carson McCullers, was written in 1946 and set in a small Southern town. The protagonist of the novella is a motherless, friendless twelve year old girl who is desperately searching for, as she says, “the we of me.” How about that phrase, right? Incredible.

The “we” she lands on is not her distant father, nor her loving African-American maid, Berenice, nor her sweet six year old cousin John Henry, but her much-older brother and his bride. Although it is clearly a far-fetched plan, sure to fail from the start, she becomes convinced that she is somehow a part of their marriage and that, after the wedding, they will take her with them to the Alaskan wilderness. She works herself into a hysterical state and tears through the town, telling anyone who will listen about her plan. The day takes several turns, both expected and not, after the little girl, who is very tall for her age, but also very innocent, meets a drunken soldier. The next day, the wedding goes as the reader, though not the poor girl, knows it will. In the last section of the novella, the story turns both tragic and optimistic as some characters grow into their future selves and others are revealed, sadly, to not have a future at all. Read the rest of this entry »