It’s been a good stretch book-wise, so I thought I’d weigh in with a trio of recent readings and what is on deck in the Kindle.
First off is The Art of Fielding, one of the best first novels and best baseball novels I’ve ever read. Chad Harbach sets the rise and fall of a shortstop prodigy in a small liberal arts college set in the northern midwest. Immediately I began to compare it to Don DeLillo’s End Zone, a great metaphysical sports novel I first read in the 1970s, but Harbach is far more accessible and compelling, with characters so rich that I began to cast the movie adaptation in my mind. The Art of Fielding is one of the better fictions I’ve read in 2011, and while the baseball theme may put off some non-sporting readers, I can assure you the basis of the novel is far more than a tale of the diamond. I am most grateful for the reminder of the majesty of Moby Dick, and impressed by Harbach’s affection for The Lee Shore, one of the most powerful piece of 19th century writing in my estimation:
Second in the list of recent good books is James Salter’s Solo Faces. Given my affection for mountain climbing literature, this is the best piece of climbing fiction I’ve read since Trevanian’s The Eiger Sanction. See the previous post for my thoughts on Salter, but this is a gem that lends credence to the claim that Salter is a “writer’s writer.”
And finally, last night I finished Stephen King’s most recent novel, 11/23/63, his great take on the cliche of the time-traveler, only done with far more savoir faire than the usual “butterfly effect” meta-weirdness most sci-fi writers dwell on. I’d position this alongside James Ellroy’s The Cold Six Thousand as the best Kennedy assassination novel ever written.
I finished this big book in three days of obsessive non-stop reading and would stack it up against The Stand as one of King’s finest. Amazing how he’s destined to go down as one of the great voices in American literature and this book confirms it.