Book of Clouds: A blog review about a book that takes risks

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Wearied by an overwhelm of work and the static panic of good-news hoping, I had again let reading go, until yesterday, when I brought home Book of Clouds (Chloe Aridjis), The Frozen Thames (Helen Humphreys), and The Cradle (Patrick Somerville). This morning through just now I read the first, a book about which Wendy Lesser, in the New York Times Book Review, recently wrote: "First novels by young writers who see the world with a fresh, original vision and write about it with clarity and restraint are rare enough to begin with. When you add in the fact that Chloe Aridjis’ 'Book of Clouds' is also a stunningly accurate portrait of Berlin, as well as a thoughtful portrayal of a young Mexican Jew drifting through her life abroad, this novel becomes required reading of the most pleasurable sort."

I love fresh and original. I love a writer who will take risks. I adore publishers who will take those risks, right along with the writer—who will agree to put out a novella-length book as a classy paperback original in a format that fits so perfectly into one's hand that nothing—even that overwhelm of work—can budge the reader once she has turned the first page.

What a perfectly odd, summation-defying book this is. What a lonesome character is Tatiana, who believes she sees Hitler on the subway dressed as an old woman, who hears phantoms in the unrented room above her, who meets a meterologist and learns the language and salvation of clouds, and whose job involves transcribing the dictations of an historian who may or may not be a transvestite, and who may or may not be relevant. Do books about lonely people have sustainable plots? It's an old debate; let the debaters read this book. Let them fall into the quick thick of clouds and fog and watch this author lasso weather.

A thick smell hung in the air, a smell that spoke of dungeon, as if one thousand Victorian chimneys had been tipped over and the lethal combination of coal fires and urban vapor had been decanted into the vast cavities of Berlin, crawling up walls and skimming the surface of the Spree, coating the shell of the S-Bahn and halting trains midjourney.

If that isn't enough for some in a book, it is more than enough for me. We can't ever know, just as this character never knows, if all she sees and hears actually exists. But what does actually matter in a book of fiction? Only the imagination does.

9 comments:

Lenore Appelhans said...

You're right! I love the sounds of this one. Going on my wishlist right now.

Em said...

I second Lenore...after reading your review, it went straight to the top of my wishlist. Enjoy the rest of your Saturday afternoon!

Amy said...

This does sound wonderful Beth. to the wishlist it goes!

Lilian Nattel said...

Cool. I'm going to put it on my list too.

Becca said...

Thanks for pointing me toward a "fresh and original" voice :)

Anonymous said...

sold! I am going to look for this book. I can tell I will enjoy the author's style immediately.

Tiqa Khairi said...

Ooh. This sounds really good and intense.

p/s; I'm looking forward to read Nothing But Ghost. :)

Beth Kephart said...

I'm so glad so many of you think Book of Clouds might be a book for you. That makes me so very happy. I can't wait to share with you my thoughts on my other two recent acquisitions...it's gorgeous to be reading again.

Anonymous said...

I'll be interested to see your thoughts on The Cradle. I reviewed it for Sacramento Book Review. I thought it left as much said as unsaid.

  © Blogger templates Newspaper II by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP