Thursday, July 5, 2007

Not Your Typical Beach Reads (But Worthy Of Your Time This Summer).

Michael Chabon has long been one of my favorite authors, ever since I read his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. So it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to his latest alternate history tale, the genre-bending The Yiddish Policemen's Union.

Though the delicious plot speeds up to the point where it starts to run off the rails in the final pages, Chabon is still an immaculate writer who knows exactly how to use his copious grasp of the language both to dazzle readers with amazing passages and to deepen his characters. He's so good that we the readers don't even realize what he's doing. Consider the following, lifted from page 2:

"According to doctors, therapists, and his ex-wife, Landsman drinks to medicate himself, tuning the tubes and crystals of his moods with a crude hammer of hundred-proof plum brandy. But the truth is that Landsman has only two moods: working and dead...When there is crime to fight, Landsman tears around Sitka like a man with his pant leg caught on a rocket. It's like there's a film score playing behind him, heavy on the castanets. The problem comes in the hours when he isn't working, when his thoughts start blowing out the open window of his brain like pages from a blotter. Sometimes it takes a heavy paperweight to pin them down."

I mean, come on. It goes on like that page after page after page, with passages veritably screaming to be read aloud. My wife got so tired of me tugging on her sleeve and saying, "You gotta hear this."

If you can only read one book this summer, please make it Knuckle Sandwich, which is, in fact, your typical beach read. But if you want something that makes my book look like fiction along the lines of Danny and the Dinosaur, you'll do well to investigate Chabon's latest. (Note: This book is intended for adult readers only. There are no sex scenes, but there is some violence, and a few bouts of swearing. Also, the book is written in present tense, which originally felt a little off-putting to me, though I got used to it a few chapters in.)

Another book that doesn't really gel with beach reading but that is worth your time is Save Me From Myself by Brian "Head" Welch. I had the privilege of working on this spiritual memoir and found Brian to be truly, genuinely in love with Jesus. He isn't flaky like so many celebrity Christians are--he's legit, and he's very determined to stay that way. He was great to work with, and I think writing the book helped him exorcise a lot of demons from his past.

At first I thought it would be a pretty high-concept paycheck for me, but the more I worked with Brian, the more I developed a passion for telling his story. It can seriously change lives, and for that, I feel really proud for the work I did on the book. It's a definite recommendation for anyone who is or was a Korn fan, or for anyone who wants a sneak peek into the world of rock-and-roll stardom and all it isn't cracked up to be.

And I'd be lying if I didn't say working on this book was the perfect primer for Knuckle Sandwich. But I gathered you guys had already figured that out.

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