Happiness, Like Water, by Chinelo Okparanta — I was delighted to see her new story in The New Yorker a few weeks ago; I’d hate to see such a fine writer overlooked amid the clamors of splashier books. This collection knocked me out because the stories are quiet and understated and lucid and gather up their power almost without the reader realizing it, then they break your heart, just like that. Such subtle and open and strong writing.
Go Down, Moses, by William Faulkner — That this is world class writing is news to no one, but I read this book straight through for the first time as a novel, rather than as stories printed in various collections. Taken as a single, coherent work, the book’s power and vision are as incredible as any of his other masterpieces. All of the previously impenetrable (to me, anyway) genealogical material in “The Bear,” for example, makes earthquaking sense in context of the rest of the book; it’s like the geneologies in the Bible that trace every person back to Adam and Eve, which is to say bind every person together in one family. It’s just like a book Moses would have written, in fact.
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