Monday, December 2, 2013

One fact, one fiction

For this post, I thought I'd share with you what I've been reading lately... because I want these great books to be discovered and loved by others.  (Clicking on the titles, by the way, will take you to the Amazon page for each book.  And no, I don't receive any compensation for promoting them--just that warm fuzzy feeling.  Wait--maybe that has to do with what I'm drinking....)

First, a novel.  Days of Smoke, by Mark Ozeroff, is fascinating for two reasons: (1) its point of view and (2) the unique voice of the writer.  Here's some of the review I posted on Amazon:

First and foremost, the most compelling reason to read this novel is for the gorgeous prose. Ozeroff knows the English language, and he enlists it lovingly but without being florid or verbose; he simply employs the right word for the right spot, and that includes the tight, effective dialog here.  This novel, set in WWII,  is the story of a German pilot, but it is also the story of a war. Without being didactic, Ozeroff encourages his readers to consider what it may have been like from the other side's point of view. When we love someone, we tend to overlook obstacles to our love, and Days of Smoke offers a glimpse into how this may be true when we love our country as well.

Ozeroff has this style of writing that I can only characterize as "gallant," for lack of a better word.  The main character is heroic in the classic sense, and I found him to be charming and engaging.  If I can be sexist for a moment, Days of Smoke is kind of a guy's book (with all those aerial dog fights and aircraft specifications), but there's romance in it, too (which is of the classic heroic type as well).  It's a great read, so if you're looking for your next novel-fix, here it is.

Next, a memoir.  I just finished reading Jeffrey Koterba's book, Inklings.  Koterba is an editorial cartoonist for the Omaha World-Herald.  He's also a musician and plays frequent gigs in his own swing band.  Oh, and on a side note, he inherited Tourette's Syndrome from his father.

Here's the amazing thing: I knew of Koterba's artistic work before I knew of his book, and I knew he had Tourette's.  I assumed the memoir would be all about growing up with the syndrome, but no.  It's about growing up with a non-nurturing, somewhat harsh father (a big reason why the book resonated with me).  And it's about struggling to achieve his goal of doing the work that he loves (cartooning) as his bread-winning day job (something else I could identify with).  Here's a bit of what I posted on Amazon about his book:

If memoir serves its purpose well, it helps us to see our own lives with a slightly better perspective, having glimpsed another life which is similar to ours but perhaps embraces greater or different challenges. Koterba's book does just that as he throws wide the shutters of his childhood and allows us to stand just outside the window, witnessing in detail the harsh and poignant moments which shaped him as a child and pushed him slowly but determinedly into the two careers he follows today.

In my own career path, I read a lot of memoir and personal narrative. Inklings will stand as one of the most memorable books I read in 2013. Koterba achieves here what few memoirists do, and that is the point at which the writer manages to step outside of his own experience and look back at it objectively, portraying events as authentically as they actually occurred. Perhaps Koterba's skill at cartooning extrapolated into his skill at writing. Whatever the case, this is an honest, forthright, sincere offering that had me staying up late turning pages.

In the winter, because I can't play outside until 7:00 (unless I want to play in the dark), I tend to read more.  I'm already missing reading these two books--but I've just started E.L. Doctorow's new one.  So far, it's brilliant.

1 comment:

  1. Imagine my surprise and delight when I read your blog this morning, only to find these kind words. Thank you so much, Kay -- you've made my day.

    I don't believe I've ever been referred to as "gallant" before. Hey, I'll have one of whatever you're drinkin' (g).