Sunday, October 17, 2021

Short Takes on the Short List, 2021

 I've read three of the six on the Booker short list for 2021, and here's what I think: 

1. Patricia Lockwood, No One is Talking About This. The first half is about the kind of fifteen minutes of fame that the Internet makes possible. The second half is about the eternal (or perhaps soon to be solved?) problem of a problem pregnancy. It's an interesting book, but I think it will have a short shelf life, due to the ephemerality of part one. Does that make it more or less likely to win? Should the prize be awarded to a book that captures the time, or will outlive the time? 4 stars.

2. The Promise by Damon Galgut. Another South African saga (the winners' list is peppered with them) about the transition from white to black power, and the guilt, or lack thereof, that whites take on. A seamless marvel of stream of consciousness. 5 stars.

3. Richard Powers' Bewilderment. Another tour de force from Powers. Like The Echo Maker, this one marries the environmental themes of his masterpiece The Overstory with the curiosity about the human mind at the center of Generosity and Galatea 2.0. It's a beautiful book about a year in the life of a single father trying to help his neuro-atypical son, who is worried about the world. 5 stars.