A Year in Reading: Tom Drury

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Men in Miami Hotels plays a different kind of music and one that has stayed in my mind this year. The novel is a poet’s version of a crime story. Or more specifically the story of a gangster who makes off with buried treasure thus inviting mortal showdown with a finely rendered series of hoods and associates. Charlie Smith —— author of seven novels and seven books of poetry —— writes with a rhythm and precision that create from this time-honored sort of premise a new and entirely persuasive world. I am this moment admiring a single, 23-line sentence that describes emeralds, sex between longtime lovers, and the sun coming up in compelling visual language. Well, see for yourself. The emeralds are “glowing he said like little lit furnaces left over from worlds so long forgotten no one remembered there had ever been such worlds,” the lovers are “bumping and shoving as if in a locked trunk they were trying to get out of,” and “the dawn stumble[s] eventually to its feet out of the ocean’s basements beyond the scattered and brushy islands to the east.”

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