Thursday, December 07, 2006

Upcoming at the LBC

Next quarter is my first one up with a nominee at the Litblog Co-op. I nominated Valerie Trueblood’s first novel, Seven Loves. It’s the story of a woman’s life through seven people whom she’s loved: a moving conceit and a novel that more than lives up to it. It’s a terrific book.

It’s going to be a really interesting January over at the LBC. Seven Loves is up against a really weird novel by Stephen Graham Jones, Demon Theory. The book is written as a really fleshed-out screenplay for a horror movie. It’s exactly not the book for me: a little gimmicky, a little sexist, a little silly and, I must say, I’m enjoying it. The third book is the new novel by Ngugi wa Thiong’o (The Wizard of the Crow, the Kenyan novelist whose A Grain of Wheat is a postcolonial classic: a tough, intense book that I’ve taught a couple times.

I was so intimidated in my quest for a book to nominate. I got really focused on finding a book that the other bloggers would like, forgetting that I needed to find one that I liked. I also spent a lot of time thinking about how many, many new books other bloggers must see all the time. I don’t work in a great bookstore; I don’t have an MFA and lots of friends from grad school days; I don’t get all that many free books. How could I possibly find a book that would really deserve touting?

I thought about what I wanted and missed from the past couple quarters since I started participating. I decided that I wanted to find either an African book or a book by a woman. I couldn’t find the African novel I wanted: some great-sounding books were just a little bit too old; lots and lots of first novels by African women sounded formulaic; Chimamanda Adichie’s book came out to so much acclaim that nominating it would harldy fulfill the mission of the LBC; Tsitsi Dangarembga’s second book came out so quietly, I didn’t notice it.

I turned to women writers. I wanted the woman’s book to have an unobtrusively feminist perspective and a female protagonist. Maybe that sounds heretical to the aesthetes among you. I insist on great writing and I felt that I’d read a lot of great writing from nominees. But I wanted to read great writing from a woman that sounded womanly to me. Edie Meidav and Sheila Heti (I almost called her Sheila Ticknor) ventriloquize a male voice and write about men; Gina Frangello’s S&M book was too sexual for me. So, I worried and struggled and, when the babies slept, I went back onto amazon.com and typed in book after book that I liked to see if the recommendations would yield a surprise.

Then, out of the blue, I got a sweet email from someone who, from reading my blog, thought, that, perhaps, I would like her novel. Might she send me a copy?

Well, as you know, I love free books. I said yes.

And the rest is history. I read Seven Loves. I loved it. I nominated it. And, on January 15, the discussion will begin. What a round it should be: the firework-y men’s book I’ve come to expect, the African novel I sought and did not find, and Trueblood’s beautiful, moving, strong story. Stay tuned….

3 comments:

Imani said...

I think it's great that you reviewed what had been done before by the LBC and looked for something different and worthy. I plan to try to read at least one of the novels I can most easily attain before Jan. 15th.

brd said...

I just had a talk with a young man from the Congo. I asked him what novels he has read. He said, "Novels are for fathers and old men." He explained that the way the textbooks are set up in the school systems is such that they are never required to read novels. The first novel he ever read was after he came to the United States. Pity.

Richard Nash said...

Wuold love to send you a copy of Transition 96, which an interview with TsiTsi and an excerpt from her second book...richard@softskull.com