Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Unlikelies

I read an amazing novel this weekend - I absolutely loved this book! It is so rare that I find something that really appeals as much to my light-reading side as to my wanting-books-to-be-really-smart side - but this is an absolute page-turner, and also one of the most interesting and stimulating books I've read all year. It is Victor Lavalle's Big Machine, and I found it spectacularly good - funny, scary, surprising, spiritually astute - I couldn't put it down.

(Why haven't I read more great novels about cults? What is there out there? Laurie King's A Darker Place was very good. I still remember, as a child, feeling the shock of the story of the Jonestown massacre - were pictures published in Newsweek, or am I just imagining it?)

Here is a WSJ profile of Lavalle, because I am too lazy to write a proper review myself; and here is Lavalle on his sex life during his years as a very fat man.

On a lazier note, I add that in the bookstore at 30th St. Station in Philadelphia this evening I seized upon Even Money. It lasted me pretty much exactly all the way home to the 116th St. subway stop, so I consider it money well spent; it is slightly more readable than its predecessor, but I think that the collaborative father-son team continues to misunderstand the extent to which the traditional Dick Francis hero steps over the line dividing the legal from the illegal only because there is a gap between the legal and the just, whereas the protagonists of these last couple books have a blithe disregard for the law that makes them considerably overstep the bounds of what the Franciscan reader is likely to find acceptable!

[ED. A quick search post-blogging leads me to the Largehearted Boy Lavalle playlist, with links - in fact it must be that Ed Park's Astral Weeks coverage is what led me to buy the book in the first place!]


  1. Regarding your Dick Francis protagonist issue:

    Think about an older book, Banker (one of my favorites). The beautifully-drawn protagonist, Tim Ekaterin, really steps over the legal line in getting one of his clients to give him a set of keys that will open anything, and he breaks into Calder's office to steal evidence that Calder is a sham.

    So, I didn't find Even Money different on that dimension.

    (And I agree that it was a bit better written than the previous few books.)

  2. That Lavalle story of his obese years was... muy, muy depressing.