David Corbett is the New York Times Notable Author of four novels, dozens of stories, numerous scripts, and too many poems. Recovering Catholic, ex-PI, one-time bar-band gypsy, his book on the craft of characterization, The Art of Character—“[A] work of art, an indispensable guide… a writer’s bible that will lead to your character’s soul,” Elizabeth Brundage—was published by Penguin last month.
May We Be Forgiven, by A.M. Homes: As deft a balancing act between heartbreaking realism and wicked black humor as I’ve read outside the works of Pete Dexter (see below). An opening scene with a gutted Thanksgiving turkey, fingers dripping with meat juices, lips coated in same, and then an illicit kiss between the protagonist and his brother’s wife—and it just takes off from there. Uncanny pacing for a so-called literary novel—violent and smart and did I mention funny?
The Blonde, by Duane Swierczynski: The reading equivalent of listening to Eddy Angel channel Link Wray. Gutsy and quick on its feet, with so many deft strokes and oddball observations and switchback plot turns, not to mention (lest we forget) the eponymous blonde who, of course, is not who she seems—a patch of red in a private spot gives her away. More to the point, she’ll die if someone isn’t within ten feet of her. Literally. Beat that, Salman Rushdie!
Characters, by Jean De La Bruyère: A gift from my agent, in celebration of the publication of my book, The Art of Character. This is the kind of item only the French write, reminiscent of Stendhal’s De l’amour and Flaubert’s Dictionary of Accepted Ideas, except not as narrowly focused as the former nor as witty as the latter. A compendium of aphorisms on human nature, based liberally on the Moral Characters of Theophrastus. Inside baseball. Mind candy, to be read in morsels.
Meeting the Shadow
The Hidden Power of the Dark Side of Human Nature, edited by Connie Zweig and Jeremiah Abrams: Jungian in bent, a much more interesting exploration of our propensity for damage than the Mark Larrimore volume, The Problem of Evil, and far less judgmental than The Criminal Mind or The Psychopathic Mind, or as self-help sappy as The Sociopath Next Door.
Hard Rain Falling, by Don Carpenter: They just don’t write books like this anymore, except maybe the work of Bonnie Jo Campbell and Donald Ray Pollock—tough and clear-eyed and human. Young men adrift and careening toward trouble in the Pacific Northwest of the late 1950s. On the Road meets Fight Club without the precious need to be important. If you’re paying attention, there’s no need to be transgressive. Reality will answer that call any day of the week.
Methland, by Nick Reding: A haunting look at a small Midwestern town’s devastation at the hands of an insidious drug, but with an eye to the larger picture—the migratory patterns gutting rural America, the tectonic economic shifts marooning America’s young, the aimless hum of hopelessness in the land.
Spooner, by Pete Dexter: My hero. I read and weep. A male Martha Gelhorn (no, Hemingway doesn’t get that nod). Sentences as clear as glass and twice as dangerous. The human condition reported with humor and heart but utterly stripped of sentiment. The driest of martinis, with a beer back. Can’t get enough of this guy. Truly, deeply, I hate him.
Which writers do you hate so much you can’t get enough of them?