The paradise engine by Rebecca Campbell follows Anthea and Liam, their lives separated by 100 years. “In both eras, an apocalyptic strain of utopian mysticism threatens their existence.” A theatre in BC links them – Liam performs there; Anthea later works to restore it.
The writing is rich with details, but the pace moves steadily. The book is divided into three parts, each of which moves between the two time periods, and has many of its own sections – with headings referencing astrology, magic, characters and places. A mix of past and present, traditional and gritty, this book looks to examine the spiritual in a host of ways.
Falling out of time by David Grossman is described as “a genre-defying drama – part play, part prose, pure poetry.” The structure recalls an ancient tragedy. It opens with the Town Chronicler narrating the story of the parents - Man and Woman. Later we meet others: the Cobbler, Midwife, Centaur, Elderly Math Teacher, and the chorus of Walkers. It reminds me of reading Anne Carson’s Antigonick (though without the amazing illustrations). Five years after the death of their son, the Man embarks on a journey to find him. Others join the Man, carrying their own losses. With simple, often abstract language, Grossman delves into our experiences of grief. His storytelling in this book is described as “a realm where loss is not merely an absence but a life force of its own.” With narrow columns of dialogue, this book could be read quickly; but I wager its emotion and ideas will linger for much longer.
Subtle Bodies by Norman Rush: this one I picked for the title. The cover shows a few well-dressed men, overlaid with some gold confetti. Suggestive of the 60s perhaps. Opening the book to read the inside cover, I recognized the storyline. Old friends gather to mourn the death of another, more than 20 years after meeting at college. Loss and grief again. But this novel is described as “a sophisticated, often comical, romp through the particular joys and tribulations of marriage, and the dilemmas of friendship.” I first read a review of it in the New York Times, and then made a note to read it later. Somehow I expected a different cover, perhaps there was an illustration in the review that I transposed onto the book. It seems like there’s going to be a lot about bodies in this book. The title is explained early on, and reinforced my interest (think body as spirit). Also, the first word is Genitals. Let these details guide you as they may.