Monday, November 5, 2007

Two Cool Books

Today's Publishers Weekly reviews the newly released children's book, The Cat: Or How I Lost Eternity by Jutta Richter (Milkweed, October 2007). The protagonist is a lonely little girl who finds companionship from a talking white cat. However, the story begins to devolve into something darker as the cat begins to display somewhat sinister sentiments, which conflict with the protagonist's sense of morality and compassion. PW points to Richter's "uncanny gift for illuminating the weight of small actions" as one of the books successes. The back cover features praise from Joyce Carol Oates: "Untimely in the way of a Grimm fairytale recast by Franz Kafka, The Cat is quite unlike the other work of fabulist fiction that I have read." This is one of those children's stories that speaks to issues children face in their own lives, but carries the kind of weight that adult readers can appreciate.

The illustrations by Rotraut Susanne Berner reflect otherworldliness of the story, and Anna Brailovsky's translation from the German preserves the author's sparse and sincere tone. As a whole package, this story is intriguing and triggers meditation on the actions one takes in his or her own life and the consequences of those actions for other people.

The Complete Stories by David Malouf recently came out with Pantheon in July 2007 and is one of the PW Best Books of 2007. The only book by Malouf that I have read is Remembering Babylon, which I found on the used book shelf of my favorite hipster bookstore, Spoonbill & Sugartown. (On a side note, this bookstore is home to several awesome cats that sleep on the stacks of books. If you are experiencing pet withdrawal for any reason, this is a good place to remedy that.) Australian-born Malouf creates powerfully dynamic relationships between his characters, always with an undercurrent of violence and suspicion. Many of his works are set in harsh Australian landscapes. He explores the fringes of society, both literally and socially, and his works create forceful reading experiences.

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