Thursday, January 10, 2019

Thomas Perry

Thomas Perry's novels include the Jane Whitefield series (Vanishing Act, Dance for the Dead, Shadow Woman, The Face Changers, Blood Money, Runner, Poison Flower, and A String of Beads), Death Benefits, Pursuit, the first recipient of the Gumshoe Award for best novel, and The Butcher's Boy, which won the prestigious Edgar Award.

Perry's new novel is The Burglar.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. Perry's reply:
What I find unusual at the moment is that this month I’ve been reading books that other people chose for me, and observing my own reactions. On March 3, 2019 I’ll be moderating a panel at the Tucson Festival of Books. I always start by reading the most recent books of the panelists. Here they are, in the order in which I read them.

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez. This just won the National Book Award. I’m often puzzled by the choices of award panels, but this time I’m not. This is a fine novel and I was lucky to have it included. The book is a kind of journal in which a no-longer-young woman who’s spent much of her life reading and discussing great books addresses “You,” a male friend who has committed suicide. He was her professor, mentor, briefly her lover, and her closest friend for the rest of his life. He has, at least according to his unpleasant and probably-lying third and final wife, left her his Great Dane. The book is wise, funny, tragic, and moving. It’s also a deep meditation on death, grieving, and the bond between humans and animals.

Next I read Gone So Long by Andre Dubus III. This is a recounting of the story of a momentous event in a family history, told partly through fragmentary memories, attempts to write a fictional version that stubbornly refuses to be fictional, and the dread and regret that haunt human existence. The father, Daniel, hasn’t been seen since he went to prison 40 years ago for stabbing his wife to death in front of their 3-year-old daughter Susan in a jealous rage. He is now dying, and he goes on the road to find and speak to Susan just once. The book-long trip gives us the chance to overhear the thoughts of the father/killer, his now-43-year-old daughter, and Lois, the mother of the murdered wife, the grandmother of Susan. The book is impressive and hypnotic. It reminded me of Faulkner in his As I Lay Dying mood. This one too deserves awards.

The third and final book of the panelists is Luis Alberto Urrea’s The House of Broken Angels. I’m only about 60% finished. It’s ironic because I’ve met Mr. Urrea a number of times, spoken with him, served on panels with him. I knew this book would be terrific, one of a long line of really good books, and it is. So I saved it as my reward in case I didn’t like the others. I’m including it here because the prompt was “What is Thomas Perry reading?” This is it.

This is another big “family history” book, the narratives consisting of memories triggered by a gathering of the family in the present for the funeral of the family matriarch, and the final birthday party the next day of the eldest son, Angel (referred to as Big Angel, while the youngest is Little Angel), who is dying. It’s brilliant, bursting with fascinating characters, full of original insights, and I can hardly wait to get back to it.
Learn more about the book and author at Thomas Perry's website and Facebook page.

The Page 69 Test: The Burglar.

--Marshal Zeringue