I have to confess I’ve been in a reading slump. I start a book and then wonder if it’s worth my time. I close it and go on to another and then have the same experience. I just closed Emma Straub’s new book, This Time Tomorrow after reading about sixty pages. Sigh; I’ve liked her other books very much, especially All Adults Here and Modern Lovers. This one was too slight for me right now. A friend gave me The Midnight Library by Matt Haig and I closed that one too.
So what has caught my attention? My older son recommended The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy. I hadn’t read any of McCarthy’s books before, tried The Road, but was put off by the incredible bleakness. The Crossing is also bleak, but it’s very haunting. I felt literally sucked into the story, grim though it was. The plot is minimal, the dialogue cryptic, so the reader needs to concentrate to get the juice out of what’s going on. The characters’ motivations are opaque: never stated, only felt. It’s about two brothers, Billy and Boyd Parham, and the trips they make from New Mexico to Mexico in the 1930s. I won’t say more; it’s quite an experience to read it. My son says it’s the best of the three books in McCarthy’s Border Trilogy and he’s pretty reliable about literature, but I may still pick up the other ones.
I also enjoyed The Colony by Audrey Magee. The characters and setting are unusual and the author tackles some interesting issues of cultural appropriation in a novel way. It takes a while for the story to warm up. Mr. Lloyd, an artist, comes to an isolated island off the coast of Ireland to spend the summer painting the beautiful cliffs. He’s channeling Gauguin, hoping to go off in a new more naturalistic direction that will catch the London buyers. His wife, a gallerist, won’t sell his works anymore or share his bed. The local folks have agreed to rent him a cabin and provide food. Lloyd is joined by a French linguist, Mr. Masson, who is surprised and annoyed to find the artist there. Masson is studying the Gaelic language on the island and is worried that speaking English to Lloyd will corrupt the islanders’ language. Two cranky, disappointed men face off in this short novel of ideas. The islanders are more appealing, especially the teenage James, who may be a better artist than Lloyd.