Smackdown Books 2017

Arlene's smackdown17 book montage

The Memory of Things
Hour of the Bees
The Gospel Truth
Ultraman, Vol. 1
The Bunker Diary
Trouble Is a Friend of Mine
Footer Davis Probably Is Crazy
The Hired Girl
An Ember in the Ashes
The Porcupine of Truth
Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir
Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans
Goodbye Stranger
Beautiful Blue World
The Blackthorn Key
All American Boys

Sunday, May 10, 2015

World Remade

I am finally chiming in, thanks to Jandy Nelson. This is my first Smackdown post, mostly because I am a busy person with flawed priorities, but also because I've found it challenging to compose rave reviews for the novels I voted for earlier in the Smackdown. They were good - tripping out on bat blood was cool - but they weren't special. Nelson's I'll Give You The Sun, however, it is special. It's beyond special, actually.

I'm not convinced that Jandy Nelson is an author. She's not writing novels; she's remaking the world, as the Sweetwines would say. Reading I'll Give You The Sun was like swimming through a painting. Noah and Jude's world is part Van Gogh, part Pollock, painted graffiti-grandiose on underpasses and construction site fences and bedroom ceilings.

While reading this book I frequently read passages aloud to my husband, who remarked, "What the **** are you reading?" I honestly couldn't say. I'm not sure I can now, even though I've been thinking non-stop about this story for over a week. What is this crazy thing? It's a kaleidescope of a narrative. Heartwrenching sister-brother dialogue. Impossible grief. Family secrets. Cartwheeling love. The ecstatic impulse. Somehow, impossibly, Jandy Nelson captures this with not with words, but with pure colour and clay and vibrating molecules.

I mean, technically, Nelson writes in words - English words, even - but nothing about this book is technical. It's technically a novel, but more like a mural. (Or a musical, or a carnival - honestly, it's that hard to nail down). It's technically fiction, but has screaming moments of magical realism. It is much, much better than technically good. It's an explosion of goodness.

I vote for I'll Give You The Sun, obviously. I truly enjoyed The Night Gardener (It was magical and I read it aloud to practice my Irish and British accents, so that was fun). The Nazi Hunters seemed like a book a non-fiction lover would like (I couldn't wade through it). But neither holds a paintbrush to I'll Give You The Sun.

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