Here are a few books I am enjoying/have enjoyed recently.

The first is by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah.  I saw him at the Newburyport Literary Fest not knowing much about him and bought his book. It’s gotten a lot of buzz — and rightly so. His worldbuilding is amazeballs! Don’t want it to end but I’m over halfway thru it. 😦 Adjei-Brenyah grew up on manga and comic superheroes, which he read, but he’s also the son of Ghanaian immigrants and lived in upstate NY, working in a mall in college. He pulls all of it into his stories in truly impressive ways. It’s complex stuff that he forges with the elements of popular culture. Here he is on Seth Myers.

And, here is one of the stories from the book. Do read! Notice how he puts you in a surreal world he has entirely constructed yet makes it accessible. The mecha-suit is something that fantasy folk might understand, but I don’t read fantasy, and yet I understood how it worked perfectly and Adjei-Brenyah didn’t oversimplify anything. He also worked his own term orgometal into it as well and a bunch of trademarked terms and understood it all. That’s storytelling! Plus, he’s got voice, POV, and dialogue down. He should, his teachers are popular authors like Mary Karr and George Saunders.

Talking of George Saunders.

I think anyone who likes animal stories might really like, which I am also reading. It’s short, a novella. But really, it’s not just an animal story, it’s a really good lesson in character development and POV. There is a member of our writing group, Lindsay, who is writing a story from the POV of animals. The illusion is, she doesn’t have the narrator talking through her characters, they seem to have their own voices and personalities. That’s what makes it interesting…it’s not a monologue masquerading as dialogue, which bores the heck out of me often when I read it in stories. Now, we all know, it’s an illusion, just as we know Penn and Teller don’t do real magic, but to the extent that voices and ideas seem to be coming from characters on the page instead of some writer’s head, it can engage. Really hard to do with animals. Saunders goes all out here creating a fox who learns human language by listening at night to stories by a window. From this, the fox tells his own story, but look what Saunders does to the language…he almost invents a fox latin. You can just see him trying to boil complex concepts down to this rudimentary language. And, it works! Very instructional for character creation.

Also, finished The God of Small Things recently. Heartbreaking, but the writing! I can see why the book made such a splash. Warning though, a lot of people have trouble with non-linear storytelling. I didn’t bother me for some reason. I thought her writing was strong enough to just figure things out. Not all agree. But it’s worth at least a try, IMHO.

I seem to be on a quest lately not to read the same ol’, same ol’. Predictableness has its merits but I hate being able to figure out a book before I even read the next page. Zzzzzz: well-trodden genre plots, tropey characters, or characters who are nothing but obvious foils for the main character, and dialogue designed to just deliver the thoughts of a writer through the mouths of characters, who themselves lack any dimension; I don’t learn anything from that writing. These last three reads, though, are candy!