Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Chaneysville Incident by John Bradley

I read a lot of books, and sometimes even manage to comment about them here. More often that not, I enjoy most of the books I post about. This is probably because (admittedly) I look for books by authors I already know or that I have an inkling -- from word of mouth or reviews -- that I'll enjoy.

Still, you never know when you're going to read a book that you really like or that makes others pale in comparison. The Chaneysville Incident is such a novel.

I came to read The Chaneysville Incident after asking for suggestions for a big book for my long flights to and from Japan. One of my work colleagues suggested it, and though I'd never heard of it or author John Bradley, I decided to give it a try.

I'm really glad I did. On the surface, the novel is a well-honed and affecting story of historian John Washington's attempt to discover what happened to thirteen runaway slaves in Chaneysville, Pennsylvania. The protagonist's efforts to reconstruct the past elevate the narrative, through various rhetorical devices and an interesting contrast that plays out throughout the novel between historical detachment and historical discovery and recreation.

Googling the novel, I was surprised that the book has garnered only minimal praise and seems to have become almost forgotten. Certainly, as a novel of the black experience in America, I would rank The Chaneysville Incident alongside anything from the past forty years, including Morrison's Beloved or Song of Solomon.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff

Bad Monkeys was my first introduction to Matt Ruff, and I was pleased.

Ostensibly a thriller about a self-confessed member of The Department for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons, Bad Monkeys is somewhere in between a parody of a thriller and an actual thriller. Ruff treads the line pretty well, and the result is a fun and weird concoction.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Palin's Environmental Record

The McCain campaign is characterizing Palin as a leader on climate change, but with a record like hers, they no doubt meant that she's a leader on accelerating climate change and species extinction.

After all, in this time of environmental uncertainty, who doesn't want a vice president who denies that climate change is man-made, disputes the findings of scientists, blocks moves to list animals as endangered species, opposes ballot initiatives to protect species from industry, and is beholden to big oil and development.


Environmentalists can't corral Palin (Associated Press)

Palin's "toxic" environmental policy would even make President Bush blush (Newkerala.com)

Friday, September 05, 2008

The Samurai Poet

Travis Belrose, one of my best friends, has recently completed a historical novel set in Japan. The Samurai Poet follows Ishikawa Jozan, a man who turned away from the samurai to a contemplative life of poetry and calligraphy. Travis has uploaded the first chapter of the novel at Authonomy, a new community site for writers, readers and publishers, by HarperCollins.

I've been in touch with Travis through all stages of this creation, from the early drafts to the final edits, and I can state emphatically that the book has truly been a labor of love, meticulously researched and well-crafted.

Check out The Samurai Poet and Travis's author profile at Authonomy.com.