This installment: a pair of poets–can this marriage be saved? (f); a graphic take on the stresses of competitive skating (nf); and creepy happenings in an ill-fated house (f).
The Use of Fame by Cornelia Nixon
Ray and Abby are poets. Their quarter-century marriage has held up, kind of, despite the odds. He grew up rough, is a better-known poet, has a heart condition, and teaches part time at Brown. She’s well-heeled, eight years older, rides, and is tenured at Stanford. Their bicoastal relationship, already frayed, lurches off course when he falls in love with a student—uh oh. And takes a prestigious but thankless job in Florida. Lots of ups and downs– intriguing.
Spinning by Tillie Walden
There’s nothing like a graphic novel for conveying conflict with a punch to the gut. Here Tillie undergoes rigorous training for skating competitions for 10 years but basically hates it. She also realizes she’s gay but is terrified to come out. Each chapter starts with an analysis of a basic figure skating move and her relationship to it, the kind of behind the scenes information I find fascinating. Trenchant!
Broken River by J. Robert Lennon
Broken indeed, though it seems like a tidy, suburban community in upstate New York. Karl, an artist, moves into a peculiar house with his wife Eleanor and daughter Irina in an attempt to make a fresh start. The house has a grim history (Karl, perverse as he is, likes that) and sinister happenings make you wonder if it’s left the past behind. Irina is convinced she’s found the girl who escaped being killed there and Eleanor can’t stay away from the website about the unsolved crime though she’s supposed to be writing her next novel. Considerable tension and an explosive denouement. One interesting feature: a mysterious “observer” which serves as a narrator of sorts, waxing philosophical on human folly. Horror fascination—I love it!
Back next week.