A Review of The World Without You, by Joshua Henkin

The World Without You: A Novel

The World Without You, by Joshua Henkin encouraged me to pick up E.M. Forster’s Aspects of the Novel, a book given to me a decade ago. Though I’ve read and loved many of Forster’s novels, I’d never read his meditation on the art and craft of the novel before, but there was something so exquisite about the structure of The World Without You, I wanted to discuss it in regard to a master’s idea on novel writing.

I sort of relish my position here as perhaps the most old-fashioned, curmudgeonly of Big Other’s contributors. The World Without You is a classically constructed book, with a rich narrative, plotted over the long weekend of the Fourth of July, a year after the Frankel family lost their only son, Leo, a journalist killed in Iraq, and the only brother to three sisters. Henkin uses these worldy issues (the Iraq war and an almost ironic Fourth of July celebration) as a backdrop for a detailed examination of a family and the intricacies of the complicated dynamics of any family. And by doing so, by not ignoring the world around the Frankel family, Henkin only adds more depth to the story of their lives.

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Brian Allen Carr’s Short Bus and Flannery O’Connor’s “Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction”

Brian Allen Carr’s collection of stories, Short Bus (Texas Review Press), is dedicated to the memory of William Patrick Carr (1977-2000). I rarely start a review, or consideration of a book with the dedication, but it seems apt to do so with this enormously sorrowful, beautiful collection of stories. I’ve yet to meet a human being who hasn’t suffered, usually tremendously, a horrible loss at some point in their lives. But not everyone can or will turn that loss into art. Carr does just that and more. This does not mean his work is entirely autobiographical, but Carr knows from where he writes.

Most urgent, moving writing is born out of suffering and tragedy. But it  can also be funny, even hilarious, even if underlying that humor is a felt darkness and raw pain. And in suffering, moments of grace are even more evident, unexpected, and not taken for granted. Continue reading

Is Anyone Else SHOCKED by Ben Marcus’s Traditional Short Story in The New Yorker???

I always think of him as the King of experimental form—and from some interviews in the past, thought he had a serious attitude about it. This short story brings to mind people finding Jesus later in life or something—that’s how radically different it is from what I know of his oeuvre. Here’s a link to an interview about his New Yorker story. Regardless, I loved the story; it was hilarious, brilliantly so. Mean and funny. Good stuff. Before this story, I found his work impenetrable.

Travels with My Aunt: A Look at Satire and Outsiderness

I’m in the Dominican Republic, sitting on the porch of the cabin we’ve owned for six years now. We dream of the expatriate life, but there literally is no high school here and I have two teenage sons. I have no doubt that the next few years I have with them will pass quickly and so I cling to them—the years, my sons—while I have them. And yet, I know that when they have gone off to college, I’ll spend more and more time travelling and living in foreign countries. Not that my boys haven’t seen a great deal of the world—we’ve been fortunate enough to travel often with them, and they are good travelers at this point, even seasoned ones.

When on vacation, especially in the familiar comfort of my cabin, I can read a novel in a matter of days. I’ve been working hard on revising a novel that I originally wrote years ago; and it’s a satire pure and simple (and I say that ironically, as I’ve discovered there’s nothing pure or simple about satire). Continue reading