2013: Reads of the Year – Mark West
Three American novels blew me away this year:
A.M. Homes May We Be Forgiven (2013, Granta)
A masterclass in form and technique, Homes’s novel has the driest narrative voice I’ve read in a while: deadpan, seemingly cursory descriptions of people, places, and things that are also hilarious, breathing new life into what might in lesser hands be a familiar tale of American suburbia and a dissolute middle-aged, middle-class white male life.
Rachel Kushner The Flamethrowers (2013, Harvill Secker)
Motorcycle speed records, the Italian Futurists, the First World War, the Arizona desert, the New York art world of the 1970s, Italian left-wing militias, lake-side villas; Kushner weaves it all together with a marvellous kinetic narrative that is in love with the telling of tales as much as it is with speed. With an enigmatic central character named after her birthplace and ideas bursting at the seams, this is a novel to devour quickly.
Jonathan Lethem Dissident Gardens (2014, Jonathan Cape)
I was lucky to get an advanced copy of Lethem’s newest, a tale of the fallout of the revelations of Khrushchev’s 1956 “secret speech” amongst a group of American Communists living in a near-commune in Queens, NYC. It retrieves a part of American history seemingly a million miles from the America of today, where socialism is synonymous with insult. It is also a radical family saga and a story of the hyphenated American and the early twentieth-century immigrant: Russian, Irish, Eastern European.