Lycanthropy has been a symbol of man’s hunger for the wild, a yearning to commune with one’s more primal urges; to embody the feral wolf, rely only on one’s instincts and savor the blood of the kill, free from the bonds of humanity. Of course the transmogrification can last for only a short while (i.e.; during the full moon). Humans must never to a primitive spirit, perpetually regress, but should constantly evolve toward a supreme ethos. Right? Well I guess that may be debatable. In any case, the propensity for Man to howl at the moon is a waning rite and one that, in time, if we are to believe Stephen Marche in his latest novel, The Hunger of the Wolf, may be obliged to wax, if we care to remain a driven and purposeful species.
The Goddess of Small Victories by Yannick Grannec (translated by Willard Wood)
From what little I can glean, the Incompleteness theorems, truths established by the mathematical logician Kurt Gödel in 1931, show us that not all arithmetic is consistent or can be proven from within axiomatic systems of arithmetic. Godel’s theorems utilize “set theory” regarding how we think of “infinity”; and paradoxes such as the familiar “liar’s paradox” (This sentence is false) to illustrate and prove his theories of logic. Since neither mathematics nor logic are in my realm of expertise, that’s about as deep as I can go by way of explanation without mucking it up. Gödel’s scientific oeuvre is considered among the most significant contributions to the field of Mathematics in the 20th century, analogous in its importance to Einstein’s work on general relativity, the photo-electric effect, and unified field theory in Physics.
At a time when many fiction writers, even those considered “literary”, have re-embraced the technique of using straight plot to tell a story, Joseph O’Neill dares to ignore that trend with the publication of his latest work. O’Neill, with The Dog, tends more to the deconstructive method of say, a Nabokov or a DeLillo, possibly even a Paul Auster. It is the sad tale of the narrator, a counselor-at-law (unnamed (or unnameable?) although he does use an alias (an ironic one at that) for his more illicit activities), who, after an ugly break-up with Jenn, his same-vocationed significant other, accepts a job offer from an old college chum, now one half of a Lebanese billionaire duo known as the Batros brothers, which requires relocation from his home base near New York City to the emirate of Dubai. Being an attorney, our narrator understandably has a lawyerly way of pleading his case. At times the prose reads like a legal brief; with lists, inventories, summaries, delineations, and so on. Literary style aside, O’Neill has written a cogent commentary on the hazards of our ever more globally connected, accessible, privacy-stripped society.
How do we define family? Is it a term describing merely our blood relations, a menagerie of characters, some of whom we have never met, never mind ever gotten to know? Or is family a group of sympathetic souls, related or not, whose lives have intertwined over the years, either by free will or luck: a group whom we can depend on, live with, and love? These are some of the questions evoked by Amy Bloom’s latest novel Lucky Us, which follows a family, some related by blood, through crucially volatile times, both for the world in the twentieth century (the pre- through post-World War II years) as well as for Bloom’s main characters.
Eva and Iris are half sisters, borne of the same college professor father, Edgar, through whom they are inexorably linked. They first meet in their teens– Eva twelve, Iris sixteen– after Iris’s mother dies and Eva’s own mom abandons her at their father’s home in Ohio. Eva is the bookworm, Iris the drama queen– literally; she regularly wins prizes for speech recitals. From the start, it’s clear that Eva is to be Iris’s little helper. She “looked at me the way a cat looks at a dog” and “talked to me the way Claudette Colbert talked to Louise Beavers inImitation of Life…” says Eva of her new-found semi-sibling. In time the two manage to gain each other’s trust but the dynamic of their relationship changes very little.
Peter Matthiessen’s latest and regrettably last book of fiction relates the experience of one Polish-American professor at a so-called “Death Camp” retreat in 1996. Clements Olin travels to Poland ostensibly on a research gathering quest for a book about a survivor who later committed suicide. But his more important purpose is only slowly revealed, to the reader and to himself, by novel’s end.