In late 2011 I decided, in the hopes of keeping my library down to a manageable size, to comb through the unread sections in alphabetical order. It was a naïve, Sisyphean project, and it will take forever—so I’d better get moving. Shelf Defense is my occasional notebook about what I dig up, from Alphabet Juice to Point Omega.
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ROSECRANS BALDWIN, YOU LOST ME THERE (2010)
WHY DO I OWN THIS?: Because I tried and failed to find a home for a review back when it came out. Then I kind of, yep, forgot about it.
THOUGHTS: See, now this is exactly why I started Shelf Defense—not so much to talk myself into reading the classics, but more to finally make time for those books that look perfectly enjoyable, if not earth-shaking. When else do you get around to those? In my experience, never. You Lost Me There is the story of a widower who discovers a set of index cards left by his late wife that complicate his own memories of their lives together. Baldwin stuffs the novel a little too tightly with secondary characters and minor plot points for my tastes, though; I’d have been happy to watch Victor obsess over the time he and his wife met Bruce Willis for a lot longer. Alas. The book is still good. I was prepared to get tired out within a few dozen pages, but I knew within a paragraph or two that we’d go the distance together. (I’d have struggled to fill a full-length review, maybe.) Either way, now I know for sure, and now I can get rid of it. Closure!
KEEP OR SELL: Sell.
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JESSE BALL, THE CURFEW (2011)
WHY DO I OWN THIS?: Because the Straight had a copy they weren’t using, and because I’ve been eyeing Ball’s debut, Samedi the Deafness,at Old Strathcona Books for years.
THOUGHTS: I can count on one hand the number of books I’ve read in a single sitting, and while The Curfew can’t technically be added to that list, it comes damn close. I opened it on a whim at lunchtime yesterday and was done by the time I went to bed; I was so enthralled by the last 40 pages that my legs literally fell asleep. I walked around on aching pins and needles for the next 10 minutes, and it was totally worth it. Ball’s story of a father and daughter navigating the hurdles of a dystopian near-future is terse and gripping—and, thank god, he’s one of the few writers who remembers that part of being poetic means being short. (If your “poetic” novel is longer than 300 pages, may I humbly suggest that you are doing it wrong?) The ending doesn’t work, but I don’t care. It’s great. Remind me to conspicuously leave it lying around when my kids are teenagers. Oblique, anti-establishment, and cool as hell, The Curfew will no doubt make a fantastic gateway drug.
KEEP OR SELL: Keep.