Thursday, July 3, 2008

Lewis Shiner

Lewis Shiner is a novelist and short story writer.

Of his new novel, Black & White, Jonathan Lethem wrote:
Black & White, Lewis Shiner's long-awaited return to the novel, is social realism so urgent and committed as to be an act of witnessing. Like books by Richard Price and George Pelecanos, Shiner's is both a page-turner and an urban documentary with a big, fierce heart.
Earlier this week I asked Shiner what he was reading. His reply:
I'm currently wrapping up Che Guevara:A Revolutionary Life by Jon Lee Anderson, which I'm reading as research for a new story. Che is on T-shirts all over the world, and I wanted to make sense of some of his contradictions: a compassionate humanist who carried a rifle; a doctor who killed; a freedom fighter who embraced the totalitarian regimes in the USSR and China. Anderson is an advocate of Che's ideals, but not a hagiographer. The book, at 754 pages (not counting notes) is thorough, but never boring, and gives a nuanced picture of a complex human being.

My favorite fiction I've read this summer is The Octopus, by Frank Norris, from 1901. This novel of robber barons in California is as relevant right now as it was the day it was published: "We are told we can defeat them by the ballot-box. They own the ballot-box. We are told we must look to the courts for redress; they own the courts ... despoiling a government treasury of a million dollars, yet picking the pockets of a farm hand of the price of a loaf of bread." Halliburton, anyone? Some of the writing is heavy handed, especially the oral formulas, but the plot builds to a devastating climax.
Read an excerpt from Black & White, and learn more about Lewis Shiner and his work at his website.

--Marshal Zeringue