A Year in Reading: Benjamin Percy

December 4, 2013 | 1 book mentioned 3

covercoverNeither of them had published a novel in a good long while. Neil Gaiman was busy in Hollywood and casting spells, Donna Tartt was holed up in her office and listening to classical music. This made 2013, when they respectively published The Ocean at the End of the Lane and The Goldfinch, an exciting year for reading. And judging from their bestseller status, I’m not the only person who felt these were two of the most anticipated titles. If you’re one of those Grinches who avoids something simply because everyone else is talking about it, get over yourself. These books live up to the hype. My wife tries to read books before I do, because I feather them with sticky notes, write in the margins. I have a nerdy, mechanical interest in how sentences and paragraphs and stories are put together. It’s rare anymore that I’m swept away. But that’s what happened to me with both these novels. I reviewed them both (for The New York Times and Esquire), but I felt so transported, so gripped, I had to set down my pen. I ended up reading them twice — the first time for the rush, the second to make analytical sense of the frantic and heart-bruised feelings the stories gave me. Give them a chance and you too will be inhabited, possessed by two of my favorite literary sorcerers.

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is the author of two novels, Red Moon (Grand Central/Hachette, May 2013) and The Wilding (Graywolf Press, 2010), as well as two books of short stories, Refresh, Refresh (Graywolf Press, 2007) and The Language of Elk. (Grand Central/Hachette, 2012; Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2006). He is currently at work on the screenplay adaptation of The Wilding for filmmaker Tanya Wexler (Hysteria) and on a novel called The Dead Lands (forthcoming from Grand Central/Hachette). He has taught at the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He is currently the writer-in-residence at St. Olaf College and teaches in the low-residency MFA program at Pacific University.


  1. I already bought “The Goldfinch”, which I think I’ll be reading over the holidays, but I’m unsold on “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”. The few stories of his I read were good, but everyone tells me his endings are letdowns and I’ve been reluctant to try ’em.

    Assuming I disliked the ending of, say, “American Gods”, do I give this one a shot?

  2. You re-read The Goldfinch!!?? You’ve got to be a world-class masochist. It’s like slogging through 500 miles of Philippine jungle with a dull machete to get through it once. And you did it twice? Unbelievable! And totally unnecessary.

  3. David – I agree. I actually had a nightmare I had to read The Goldfinch again… months after I finished it.

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