In Brief — Wolf Hall, Eddie Signwriter, Salinger Betrayed, and Wizard People, Dear Reader

Started a new audiobook: Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, read competently by Simon Slater. Wolf Hall tells the familiar story of Henry VIII, only Mantel focuses (at least so far) mostly on Thomas Crownwell and Cardinal Wolsey. Most of the men in the story have the first name “Thomas.” I’m not particularly interested in the Tudor saga but I’m enjoying Mantel’s novel so far–its clean, precise style, its pacing, and, particularly Mantel’s sparing use of details. Historical novels sometimes succumb to the weight of the author’s passion with her subject. Thankfully, Mantel does not overload her prose with superfluity; instead she appoints detail in her narrative with care and precision, giving character and plot room to grow. Good dialogue too. More later.

I got a review copy of Adam Schwartzmann’s début novel Eddie Signwriter last week and haven’t had a good chance to read any of it until today. The novel tells the story of Kwasi Edward Michael Dankwa aka Eddie Signwriter, who journeys from his native Ghana to Senegal, and then to France, where he takes up a new life as an illegal immigrant in Paris. The story opens in a burst of action. Nana Oforwiwaa, a village elder has died and authorities are blaming Kwasi. So far, I find Schwarzmann’s prose a bit heavy. Sentences need pruning–too many redundant verbs and clauses in his sentences for my taste. Eddie Signwriter is better when Schwartzmann moves the narrative of young Kwasi along in shorter, declarative sentences. Eddie Signwriter is available now from Pantheon.

Great article in New York magazine by Roger Lathbury. “Betraying Salinger” details Lathbury’s attempt to publish J.D. Salinger’s last story, Hapsworth 16, 1924. Sad and strange. Here’s the first paragraph:

The first letter I got from J.D. Salinger was very short. It was 1988, and I had written to him with a proposal: I wanted my tiny publishing house, Orchises Press, to publish his novella Hapworth 16, 1924. And Salinger himself had improbably replied, saying that he would consider it.

If you haven’t heard any of Wizard People, Dear Reader, Brad Neely’s reimagining of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone you should do so now. Download Neely’s audiobook (to be played concurrently with a version of the (muted)  film) from Illegal Art. Neely’s revision of the first HP volume taps into the story’s primal, dark mythos; it’s hilarious. Neely’s writhing delivery sounds like a dead-on impression of Brad Dourif (particularly like Dourif’s Deadwood character, Doc Cochran). If you don’t want a full screening, YouTube is full of short, sweet solutions, like this one — “The Cribbage Match” —