The Coffeehouse by Naguib Mahfouz
translated by Raymond Stock
PJ7846.A46 Q8713 2010
A novel of loss and memory from the Egyptian Nobel laureate. On a school playground in the stylish Cairo suburb of Abbasiya, five young boys become friends for life, making a nearby café, Qushtumur, their favorite gathering spot forever. One is the narrator, who, looking back in his old age on their seven decades together, makes the other four the heroes of his tale, a Proustian (and classically Mahfouzian) quest in search of lost time and the memory of a much-changed place.
In a seamless stream of personal triumphs and tragedies, their lives play out against the backdrop of two world wars, the 1952 Free Officers coup, the defeat of 1967 and the redemption of 1973, the assassination of a president, and the simmering uncertainties of the transitional 1980s. But as their nation grows and their neighborhood turns from the green, villa-studded paradise of their youth to a dense urban desert of looming towers, they still find refuge in the one enduring landmark in their ever-fading world: the humble coffeehouse called Qushtumur.
Bullfighting by Roddy Doyle
PR6054.O95 B85 2011
Roddy Doyle has earned a devoted following for his wry wit, his uncanny ear, and his ability to fully capture the hearts of his characters.Bullfighting, his second collection of stories, offers a series of bittersweet takes on men and middle-age, revealing a panorama of Ireland today. Moving from classrooms to local pubs to bullrings, these tales feature an array of men taking stock and reliving past glories, each concerned with loss in different ways-of their place in the world, of their power, their virility, health, and love. “Recuperation” follows a man as he sets off on his daily prescribed walk around his neighborhood, the sights triggering recollections of his family and his younger days. In “Animals”, George recalls caring for his children’s many pets and his heartfelt effort to spare them grief when they died or disappeared. The title story captures the mixture of bravado and helplessness of four friends who go off to Spain on holiday. Sharply observed, funny, and moving, these thirteen stories present a new vision of contemporary Ireland, of its woes and triumphs, and middle- aged men trying to break out of the routines of their lives.
The Sentimentalists: A novel by Johanna Skibsrud
PR9199.4.S567 S46 2011
Johanna Skibsrud’s debut novel connects the flooding of an Ontario town, the Vietnam War, a trailer in North Dakota and an unfinished boat in Maine. Parsing family history, worn childhood memories, and the palimpsest of old misunderstandings, Skibsrud’s narrator maps her father’s past.
Napoleon Haskell lives with Henry in the town of Casablanca, Ontario, on the shores of a man-made lake beneath which lie the remains of the former town. Henry is the father of Napoleon’s friend Owen, who died fighting in Vietnam. When her life comes apart, Napoleon’s daughter retreats to Casablanca and is soon immersed in the complicated family stories that lurk below the surface of everyday life. With its quiet mullings and lines from Bogart, The Sentimentalists captures a daughter’s wrestling with a heady family mythology.
Randy Lopez Goes Home: A novel
PS3551.N27 R36 2011
When he was a young man, Randy Lopez left his village in northern New Mexico to seek his fortune. Since then, he has learned some of the secrets of success in the Anglo world—and even written a book called Life Among the Gringos. But something has been missing. Now he returns to Agua Bendita to reconnect with his past and to find the wisdom the Anglo world has not provided. In this allegorical account of Randy’s final journey, master storyteller Rudolfo Anaya tackles life’s big questions with a light touch.
Randy’s entry into the haunted canyon that leads to his ancestral home begins on the Day of the Dead. Reuniting with his padrinos—his godparents—and hoping to meet up with his lost love, Sofia, Randy encounters a series of spirits: coyotes, cowboys, Death, and the devil. Each one engages him in a conversation about life. It is Randy’s old teacher Miss Libriana who suggests his new purpose. She gives him a book, How to Build a Bridge. Only the bridge—which is both literal and figurative, like everything else in this story—can enable Randy to complete his journey.
Readers acquainted with Anaya’s fiction will find themselves in familiar territory here. Randy Lopez, like all Anaya’s protagonists, is on a spiritual quest. But both those new to and familiar with Anaya will recognize this philosophical meditation as part of a long literary tradition going back to Homer, Dante, and the Bible. Richly allusive and uniquely witty, Randy Lopez Goes Home presents man’s quest for meaning in a touching, thought-provoking narrative that will resound with young adults and mature readers alike.
Trophy: A novel by Michael Griffith
Vada Prickett is a 29-year-old Hose Associate at a car wash in South Carolina, and Darla, the woman he loves, is about to marry his friend, rival, and life-long neighbor, Wyatt Yancey. Vada has “spent his life waiting for the thing to get a proper start.” But it will never get that start, for Vada, as this wildly original novel opens, is being crushed to death by Wyatt’s latest animal trophy, a stuffed grizzly bear Vada has been helping him to smuggle—against Darla’s wishes—into Wyatt’s house.
It turns out that the cliché is true—at the moment of death, your life does flash before your eyes. Trophy, the account of a man’s final, fleeting instant on earth, joins Vada as he attempts to make that flash last as long as possible. As he lies dying, too soon and too absurdly, Vada tries to unravel the mysteries of his life. He first bargains with God, then rages against the dying of the light. Exhausted, Vada proceeds to prolong, in every way available to a man in his dire circumstances, the time he has remaining.
Just beneath Griffith’s dark humor and witty take on our present-day culture lies a meditation on memory and identity and the power of language over both.