Tuesday, February 03, 2009

"The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary; men alone are quite capable of every wickedness."*

I went on a Stewart O'Nan spree when I first discovered him. I started with Prayer for the Dying, which appealed to me at first due to its plague theme. (Do you know anyone else who regularly reads the Weekly Morbidity and Mortality Report?) But what a ride! Nail-bitingly suspenseful, inevitability worthy of Shakespeare's tragedies, haunting, eerie cover art - and it made me cry too. I don’t think a book has affected me so much since, except for Cormac McCarthy’s The Road. (And since both books deal with similar themes – mainly, the often futile battle against inexorable evil - that doesn’t surprise me.)

Then I tackled Snow Angels. Very good as well, a little less polished, a bit more teen-angst-y due to the age of one of the main characters, a completely different book, but the same spare, elegant writing and gripping storytelling.

Wish You Were Here was gentler and not as focused, but more involved with characterization.

I was wowed by my find, but for some reason didn’t follow through by ordering from Amazon, or the library, the rest of his novels. However, I was recently thrilled to stumble over his newest, Songs for the Missing, at a dashing visit to my library last week. It boasts all of O’Nan’s usual detailed but natural storytelling, compelling characters whom we get to know almost uncomfortably well throughout the book’s course, and an occasional plot twist that you never see coming but that makes all the sense in the world. O’Nan doesn’t write thrillers, or police procedurals, but I often perceive those elements in his novels.

Of course, due to total lack of sleep and consequent brainlessness, I have set aside Songs, just for the moment, in favor of rereading Book 4 of the Twilight series, Breaking Dawn. It just goes better with the Cherry Cordial Hershey Kisses I have been snarfing down in a spate of what I like to refer to as “survival eating.” When my brain functions return to their regularly scheduled efficiency, I will pick up Songs again. And now I have to go, because I am This. Close. to experiencing brain bleed from the now-healthy, perkier-than-ever, and endlessly nattering three-year-old.

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*Joseph Conrad (Did you know Conrad wrote his brilliant novels in his THIRD language? I consistently find this fact utterly amazing.)

9 comments:

Jess said...

I love it when you talk about books. You can pretty much talk me into anything - and I can almost forgive you for rereading Breaking Dawn.

Duyvken said...

Sounds wonderful and what a great title!

Katya said...

I keep meaning to read Stewart O'Nan and I'm often attracted to his books by their titles; I just haven't got around to reading any of them yet. The Twilight books either.

Shirty said...

Stephen King loves O'Nan, which makes me happy.

And thoughts of Joseph Conrad never fail to leave me speechless. I mean, what is there to say?

Liz said...

I still can't get A Prayer for the Dying out of my mind, and you're right- the cover art was haunting. I read that it was a compilation of two separate photos.

Liz said...

also- have you read The Brief History of the Dead? Someone who reads WMMR might enjoy it. ;)

Amelia Plum said...

I read Snow Angels years ago, so long ago I think I need to reread it to remember the plot. But I'm glad you put up this post - I just checked out his stuff on Amazon and there are at least three books I'd like to read when I'm done with school. Where do you find the time to do all this reading? And work and have four kids?

Elizabeth said...

Love, love, love book recommendations. keep them coming.

nutmeg said...

I just checked O'Nan out on my local library's catalogue and there are five of his novels sitting on the helves right now. I will grab one when I am next there!