Rem has been working at VB since 1996. He is an avid knitter and bicycle commuter. A classic co-dependent, he enjoys long walks on the beach and relationships with fuzzy boundaries.
The author of The Shallows takes us on a panoramic journey through the evolution of machines. Always there has been a tension between machines that enhance our creativity and knowledge, and those that take over the work and increase profit. Guess which side is winning? From airplanes to doctors' offices to autocorrect, machines are cutting out the slow, messy human brain as the weakest link. There is high comedy here for sure. A Google Maps engineer tells us that "No human has to feel lost again." Or Mark Zuckerberg pronounces that having more than one identity is "a lack of integrity". Behind these Alice-in-Wonderland-type statements is a pretty sterile worldview, however, and Carr makes an eloquent argument for DIY in all its forms. As Robert Frost sums up, "The fact is the sweetest truth that labor knows."
Charlie Crosby is out on a pleasant fall walk, birdwatching. He gets back to his car and the phone is ringing. His wife's voice tells him that his daughter is dead, killed in a biking accident. Immediately we are thrown into the hallucinatory world of sudden grief. Harding charts Charlie's breakdown over the coming year with sharp detail and lyrical metaphor, as he did in Tinkers. It's terrible but there's a strange beauty too, as though Charlie is hovering over the world as a ghost. A scene halfway through the book, when he tries to make a simple trip to a convenience store, is alone worth the price of admission.
Clod Iremonger is a proud member of a family that has ruled over the vast dumps, or heaps, outside London for a hundred years. But something is strange. He can hear objects talking, objects like door handles and noodle strainers, saying their names. In the meantime we meet Lucy Pennant, a plucky orphan girl whose parents succumbed to a mysterious disease. They were frozen in place, objectified. As Clod and Lucy find each other and become allies against the scary adults, the central plot unfolds like a childhood dream I once had: which is more alive, the objects or the people?
My favorite book this year and maybe the best book I've ever read about living with an addict. The slow deadening of all emotion contrasted with the full-body adrenaline rush of waiting for the next disaster to strike. Awesome stuff! Seriously, Harrower is a magician.
I still remember the chills I felt when I read Henry James's "Portrait of a Lady" for the first time. Especially the long scene in front of the fire when Isabel sorts out what she knows and doesn't know about the prison her marriage has become. Henry's brother William would call it "stream of consciousness" 8 years later, and soon other authors like Joyce would take up the baton. But Gorra beautifully describes in this unusual biography how Henry got their first.
This reissued classic from 1970 is like a little pouch of diamonds, chock full of hard little truths about marriage and getting older. I've actually felt my jaw drop open at the end of certain paragraphs -- always a good sign. --Rem
Mate has worked with the drug community in East Vancouver for many years, and this comprehensive book on addiction is distinguished by his compassion as much as his expertise.
I'm a little late to the Mary Karr party, so those of you who have already enjoyed her two earlier memoirs will have to excuse my enthusiasm; but holy cow, this woman can write! Lit is the story of her journey into and out of alcoholism during her early adulthood, in the meantime dealing with a failing marriage, a struggling writing career, and the ghosts of her childhood. If it's a story you think you know, think again. Funny, matter-of-fact, and filled with biting Texas grit, Karr also manages to chart a spiritual awakening as moving as anything in our inspiration section. --Rem
This excellent collection of short stories is hard to describe. Richter blends fantasy and gritty realism in a new way. In one of my favorites, an unhappy wife finds herself lured away from her suburban home by a pack of cavemen -- actual cavemen -- who have shown up in her neighborhood. Humorous and disturbing all at once.
This is the fun and more than a little unbelievable story of how a bunch of students and amateur naturalists ventured into the redwood forests of Northern California and began to explore the hitherto unknown canopies of these amazing giants. Preston's writing veers over into soap opera at times, but how else to capture the romantic nature of the facts; i.e., a geeky convenience-store clerk who in his spare time goes out and finds the tallest tree in the world! A fascinating read. --Rem
"'He might be a muddy-faced boozer,' I said. 'The police think he's a murderer too. Of his wife. She's been found drowned in the lake. After a month.' She moistened her lips and held her head on one side, staring at me fixedly. There was a quiet little silence. The damp breath of the Pacific slid into the room around us.'" Ah Raymond. The Master. --Rem
Bruce and Loonie are a couple of boys growing up in a dead-end small town in Australia, longing for danger and adventure. Just down the river from their village they discover the wide, terrifying ocean, and fall in love with a mysterious surfer named Sando. This is a breathless story about testing one's limits, learning to face fear, and finally how saying no might be the better part of valor. Beautifully written. --Rem