3. Anthony Doerr ‘The River Nemunas’: Why he’s not better known is a mystery to me. The Shell Collector was an amazing collection back in 2002 and this year’s Memory Wall tends to leave one speechless. This tale of an orphaned American girl and her poodle moving to Lithuania and trying to catch a legendary fish with her grandfather was my favourite, but only because the title story was on my list last year.
2. T.C. Boyle ‘The Wreck of the Beverly B’: The other standout from McSweeney’s 34, prolific short story writer Boyle pulls a Jack London with this tale of a beleaguered woman who is the sole survivor of a boat accident. Unreal. Boyle captures the lives of others like no one else.
1. Tea Obreht ‘The Space Elephant’: There should be an acute accent over the ‘e’ in ‘Tea’, the youngest writer on the New Yorker 20 under 40 list, who makes my list two years running. In 2009 she had the best story in The Atlantic fiction issue and this year has the best in Zoetrope (Volume 14 No.3). An imaginary (or not?) creature helps a man paint surreal murals all over a coastal town. Get it. Read it. Obreht is a once-in-a-generation talent, I suspect. Her novel The Tiger’s Wife comes out next year and early word is that it’s a meteor that will knock the Earth off its axis.
Sylvia Plath and her children.
Karl and his books.
Lignin, the stuff that prevents all trees from adopting the weeping habit, is a polymer made up of units that are closely related to vanillin. When made into paper and stored for years, it breaks down and smells good. Which is how divine providence has arranged for secondhand bookstores to smell like good quality vanilla absolute, subliminally stoking a hunger for knowledge in all of us.
Perfumes: The Guide (via)