A Year in Reading: Tania James

December 5, 2012 | 4 books mentioned 2 min read

covercoverI read a number of brilliant books this year, including Rajesh Parameswaran’s I Am An Executioner: Love Stories, Mohammed Hanif’s Our Lady of Alice Bhatti, and A.S. Byatt’s Possession, which caused me to miss a connecting flight. I’ve missed subway stops many a time due to a good book, but it’s a great book that renders you completely oblivious to the hoards of travelers leaving your gate and mass migrating to the other end of the airport. Any one of the aforementioned books could have stranded me.

coverI also read and immediately re-read The True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey. Fleeing the police, the Australian outlaw Ned Kelly writes his confessions in eleven parcels of tattered pages, meant for his unborn daughter. It’s hard for me not to get all evangelical when discussing this novel, but let me take off my church hat and try. First, there’s the voice: unruly, unpunctuated, often funny, always magnetic  Here is Kelly, on his mother: “I seen how she had suffered this last year her eyes had retreated her lips was eaten from within her hands so large & knotted you could see her nerves like baling twine beneath her glassy skin.” Behind such flashes of prose is a character who felt to me as alive and intimate as a friend. (A friend who thieves horses and fashions his own battle helmet out of a metal pail.) Even as the prose is worth savoring, I found myself racing toward the end, unwilling to finish the book, or maybe more accurately, unwilling to leave him.

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is the author of Atlas of Unknowns and Aerogrammes (both Alfred A. Knopf). Her fiction has appeared in The Boston Review, One Story, A Public Space, The Kenyon Review, and Granta. She lives in Washington D.C.

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