Indexing: Michael Kimball, Ben Marcus, Caryn Rose, Rimbaud, and more

Tobias Carroll
A year and a half ago, I was reading Lev Grossman’s The Magicians in trade paperback. Looking at the very back page, I saw an ad teasing the sequel, The Magician King. Initially, I wasn’t sure what to think: The Magicians was as much a meditation on certain fantasy tropes as a satisfying work on its own. Could Grossman sustain that for a second book? As it turns out, that’s not at all what’s going on with the sequel in question. Though references to everything from The Once and Future King to The Venture Brothers crop up in its pages, The Magician King is much more about pushing its cosmology into newer and stranger places; it’s a sequel that surpasses its predecessor. (Though now having finished both books, I’m hoping to see an interview with Grossman about some of the late-in-the-book revelations in this one, as I’m curious about what his thematic intentions were. Yes, I’m rambling a bit, but I’m willing to be looked upon as a rambler for the sake of spoiler prevention. Also, I do ramble a lot.)

Also, Nick Antosca’s review is well worth reading.

I’d heard plenty of good things about Michael Kimball’s novel Us, the story of an elderly couple dealing with failing health and their own mortality. That makes the book sound like one thing, when in reality it’s something very different: like Kimball’s Dear Everybody, there’s a much more complex structure at work than one might first detect. In both, Kimball uses metafictional devices to trigger a reaction that’s far more empathic than intellectual, though it’s satisfying on both levels. And certain images from this — particularly the couple at its center spending days following the progression of daylight through their house — will stay with me for a long, long time.

…I read a lot of books this week, it turns out. (Truth be told, The Magician King is a carryover from the previous week; I’d forgotten to bring it up, then decided that I might as well invoke it this week, as surely I’d have fewer books to talk about here. Joke’s on me.) So! On to some more. Starting with Emily Schultz’s Heaven is Small, which works as both a story of frustrated ambition and a sinister corporate satire. On to Muriel Spark’s The Ballad of Peckham Rye, which shares one plot element with her later novel Loitering With Intent, and boasts a jaunty yet bleak comedic tone throughout. I’m still perplexed by Ida Hattemer-Higgins’s The History of History, and I’ll likely come back to it in a future Indexing when I’m able to write about it in more coherent terms. (Strangely, it’s a book that — while I don’t know if I loved it — I find myself hoping that it’ll be in contention for next year’s Tournament of Books, if only because I suspect it’ll inspire some amazing reactions from the judges and commenters.)

And finally, in the corner of surrealism, we have the short novel Good, Brother, by Peter Markus, which I found disconcerting and incredibly, unexpectedly, charming. (Might I direct you to J.A. Tyler’s thoughts on it over at Big Other?) In the same corner also dwells David Ohle’s Motorman, which was — I think — designed to elude all sorts of comparisons. (It might fit nicely on a double bill with Samuel R. Delaney’s Dhalgren, though.) And here, I’d like to point you in the direction of some thoughts on it from Derek White, who’d go on to re-release it. As a bonus, Ben Marcus’s introduction to the paperback is fantastic, and contains the line “You have characters with beards playing hockey.”

No; no context on that one.

Also? Speaking of Ben Marcus, I just read his story “What Have You Done?”, and would simply like to leave an all-caps OH MY GOD in response. It might be the best short work of fiction I’ve read this year; certainly, it’s the most haunting.

Jason Diamond

Caryn Rose was a last second addition to last week’s Greatest 3-Minute Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll story series.  I’d been meaning to pick up her debut, B-Sides and Broken Hearts, but upon hearing the book’s anti-Dave Matthews, Pro-Joey Ramone message, I decided that I’d waited too long, and it was time to crack it open.  What I loved about B-Sides was that unlike other punk novels to come out in the last year, Rose took what seemed to be a more personal, possibly semi-autobiographical story, and turned it into something very appealing.  I appreciate the heavy research of some of the other novels that have a punk component to the story, but B-Sides and Broken Hearts was a no fluff, completely real, and highly enjoyable read.

I loved the New Yorker piece on Rimbaud.  There are approximately 16 million different articles, books, and iconic disciples of the poet who aren’t afraid to scream their idols name from the highest mountaintop (or talk about him in an oral history on some subculture he had some influence on), but this piece was one of my favorites.

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