Riddley Walker, Expanded Edition

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Curiosities: Raw Power

RSVP: We’ve already had several RSVPs for our NYC indie bookstore walking tour. Get all the details via our announcement post.People are still adding to our collaborative literary Atlas. Recent additions include several non-bookstore literary spots in the Midwest, including the Kate Chopin House and the final resting place of William S. Burroughs. The Atlas itself has been viewed over 100,000 times.Panelists at the SXSW “New Think for Old Media” panel face death by a thousand Tweets.Also via Freebird: Iggy Pop explores Michel Houellebecq’s raw power.Mark Grief and Year in Reading contributor Wells Tower give far-ranging interviews in a new online journal, Wag’s ReviewHanif Kureishi discusses life after the Rushdie fatwa.A bibliography of coffee.The editor of John Updike’s book reviews remembers the writer: “he was attentive to everything.”Cathleen Schine admires Zoe Heller’s The Believers.The Village Voice praises Mary Gaitskill’s “ludicrous mastery.”In two long posts, Blographia Literaria offers a thoughtful alternative to our take on The Kindly OnesBen Okri pioneers the Twitter poem.Two books named Brooklyn enter, one book named Brooklyn leaves. (via)Tucker Carlson sounds a dissenting note on Jon Stewart in the wake of the Jim Cramer takedown.Levi Asher and Scott Esposito discuss litblog economics.At The Second Pass, Jon Fasman calls readers’ attention to Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker, echoing John Wray’s Year in Reading contention that “Sometimes, though, a work of originality and genius slips inexplicably through the cracks.”Wray’s Lowboy, meanwhile, got the James Wood treatment at the New Yorker this week.

A Year in Reading: John Wray

John Wray is the author of the novels The Right Hand of Sleep and Canaan’s Tongue. The recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize and a Whiting Award in fiction, he was recently named one of Granta magazine’s twenty best American novelists under thirty-five. His new novel, Lowboy, will be published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux this coming March.Most of the time, when a novel is forgotten, literary justice has been served: it’s atrociously written, or its attitudes have aged badly, or it’s simply a lesser imitation of a book that made the cut. Sometimes, though, a work of originality and genius slips inexplicably through the cracks, and it’s in search of these lost treasures – ‘black pearls’, as my friend Bill, an antiquarian book dealer, calls them – that poor sods like me spend their days in second-hand bookshops, blowing dust off of sun-bleached spines and flipping doggedly through voided library paperbacks we’ve never even heard of. Riddley Walker, by Russell Hoban, is a black pearl if there ever was one. Set in a post-apocalyptic England in which all but the most basic civilization has decayed, and written in a kind of radioactive pidgin that heightens both the absurdity and horror of the world it describes, the novel tells the story of the uneasy friendship between two adolescent boys – one a normal teenager, one a clairvoyant mutant – who happen, more or less by accident, on the secret of the atomic bomb. I won’t say more than that, but trust me, it’s a humdinger. In the words of Anthony Burgess, whose A Clockwork Orange is one of the only novels Riddley Walker owes a debt to: “This is what literature was meant to be – exploration without fear.”More from A Year in Reading 2008

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