The Grande Complication by Allen Kurzweil (Kurzweil)
My mother-in-law liked this book, and considering it's about books, libraries and librarians, she thought I'd like it. I thoroughly enjoyed it, so I thought I'd send you all a little review.
This is the story of Alex Short, a neurotic reference librarian at an unnamed New York library that sounds a lot like the NY Public. Alex is obsessed with writing, so much so that he has a notebook attached to him via a "girdle" at all times. He wooed Nic, his French artist wife through books, which they recorded in a book collaboration called "Slips of Love," detailing the reference slips of books they shared during courtship.
However, their marriage is not doing well; Alex's graphomania seems to be getting in the way of their relationship, in spite of Nic's various art projects, such as a pop-up Kama Sutra and a topo map of her body, aimed at rekindling their love.
Enter the eccentric millionaire. Henry James Jesson III catches Alex's attention one day at the library when he requests, in beautiful calligraphy, a book about antique furniture with hidden compartments. Alex is obsessed both with handwriting, and "enclosures," such as secret compartments and hidden rooms.
Eventually Jesson requests Alex's help. He needs a researcher to aid him in his quest of a lost object. Jesson is a collector of books and antiquities, and has acquired a mysterious case of curiosities. It is apparent, though, that one of the niches is empty, and Jesson wants Alex to help him identify the missing artifact, and then locate it for him.
I really enjoyed this book and I'd recommend it to fans of Umberto Eco and Arturo Perez-Reverte. The library scenes, with the idiosyncracies of library staff and patrons, as well as the politics and competition between departments, were hilarious.
Reviewed by NathanThe Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker
It is often the small and mundane disasters that bring the distant problems of a larger world into focus. A recent novel that very subtly deals with this modern anxiety about environmental and social collapse is Karen Thompson Walker’s debut novel, The Age of Miracles.
Thompson deftly addresses both large and small scale disasters by pairing the transition from childhood to adulthood with a global environmental crisis. In the world of Thompson’s novel, eleven-year old Julia and her family wake one morning in southern California to discover, along with the rest of the world, that the earth’s rotation has begun to slow. This lengthening slowly increases, increasing the length of day and night, and bringing with it fears of ecological disaster, social strife and the end of the world. What better way to illustrate the turbulence of adolescence than a major global catastrophe?
This unstable world with its ever changing sense of time is a perfect backdrop for the little disasters in Julia’s life. In the up-and-down world of junior high, Julia’s relationships crumble, new ones form, and she becomes aware of loneliness and cruelty, as well as the redemptive powers of love and friendship. But in this world turned on its head, day and night have also become unstuck, disrupting the old rhythms of life. The strangeness of adolescence is mirrored in the uncanny changes of a world no longer predictable.
Walker’s novel is beautiful. Written in a soft-spoken first person point of view, her simple, direct language captures fear and anxiety for the future discovered in the little disasters in life, the small things we take as signs for the disasters to come. Which is worse? she seems to ask the reader, the end of a relationship, of society as we know it, of the world, or the worry that precedes it, starting from the first awareness of a problem?
Walker balances the greater conflict of her novel with more mundane tragedies, from the lies loved ones tell, to a nighttime snowfall, to a dead blue jay on the porch. By weighing these lighter tragedies against the more fantastic elements of the story, the reader feels the impact of these impossible events, and feels the changing of the world through the affect it has upon the characters.
Reviewed by Nathan
Portions of this review have been published or will be published in the Provo Orem Word.