NBCC Good Reads: not exactly chock-a-block with shocks.

If you were looking to find something new from the NBCC’s winter list, best look elsewhere.  Six hundred literary luminaries might not be wrong, but you’re either not the sort of person that would ever want to read any of these fiction titles, or you’ve already heard about them ad infinitum elsewhere.  If Critical Mass is the only site you subscribe to – which often seems to be
assumed by the editors – then you’re fine, good list, go forth and

I’ll take a swing; from my forthcoming (elsewhere) review of Yannick Murphy’s Signed, Mata Hari:

Murphy’s decision to tell the story of a life, instead of a story of
espionage, could have quickly sunk into Harlequin dramatics.  She edges
awfully close at some points – a storm ripping the leaves from cocoa
plants outside, while inside Mata Hari makes love to the white doctor
who saved her life; an attempt to kidnap back her daughter from
MacLeod, who has kept her hidden away, goes wrong when the daughter
walks right by her mother and isn’t recognized.  The difference is that
Murphy in such a way as to leave it open to interpretation; the novel
could easily satisfy the romance crowd, but as story progresses, the
reader is free to read into recurring themes and images.  As she
explained in an interview at The Bat Segundo Show,
this was intentional; she had certain elements that she wanted to work
into the story, but not to the point of cramming symbolic meaning down
the reader’s throat.  At the beginning of the novel, she recounts an
experience in childhood:

I CHEATED DEATH. I walked across the sea. When the tide was
low I went over the furrowed sandbanks in my small bare feet. I
skipped school one day and traveled to an island near my home
called Ameland. I had heard stories, every child who lived in the
Netherlands knew the stories, about the mud like quicksand and
about the water like a great gray wall when the tide came in and
how it could catch you and knock you down and pour into your
mouth and drown you so that you couldn’t ever return, no matter
how hard you tried to climb out of the mud like quicksand and
over the great gray wall. But I returned…

I found mother dead in the kitchen. The white flour was on
her apron. It was up her arms. It was between the laces of her
boots. It was in her mouth. The doctor said she died from an
infection in her lungs. I thought she died from breathing in the
flour. From the inside out, it turned her into a ghost. I never went
into that kitchen again. The kitchen can kill you, I thought. I
closed my eyes and was walking across the sea. Each time I remembered
it, it was as if I were more there than the first time.
I noticed more things. The white sand crabs burrowing beside
my feet. The water coming in, the bubbles springing up from
beneath me, filling in between my toes, creeping up the hem of
my silk skirt.

…It’s an excellent book; Murphy is bold.  Where did I learn about it? 

The "rest" may be "noise," but I prefer noise to homogeneity; this NBCC selection amounts to little more than old news. 


2 Replies to “NBCC Good Reads: not exactly chock-a-block with shocks.”

  1. Thanks for the Segundo mention. Yeah, it’s a great book. I liked it more than HERE THEY COME, which, given how much I dug THAT little number, is saying something (and I probably should have been more effusive in my review; but hey there were multiple deadlines).

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