Year in Reading

A Year in Reading: Josh Henkin

By posted at 5:16 am on December 12, 2008 0

Josh Henkin is the author of Matrimony, a New York Times Notable Book, Borders Original Voices Pick, and Booksense Pick. His short stories, essays, and reviews have appeared in many journals and newspapers. He teaches at Sarah Lawrence College, Brooklyn College, and the 92nd Street Y in New York City. Josh lives with his family in Brooklyn.

coverThe one most on my mind at the moment is Charles D’Ambrosio’s wonderful story collection The Dead Fish Museum. I first read D’Ambrosio many years ago when his story “The Point” appeared in The New Yorker. It’s the story of a teenage boy forced to take home from a party one of his mother’s dissolute, inebriated friends. “The Point” is about sexual awakening, among other things, and it’s set against the backdrop of the protagonist’s father’s suicide. I still remember many of the images. “She was wearing a silky white slip underneath, the sheen like a bike reflector in the moonlight.” “The Point” was the title story of D’Ambrosio’s first collection, and if I have a favorite story in The Dead Fish Museum it’s probably “Up North” (a sample couple of lines: “I’ve never really liked men on whom I can smell cosmetic products, and it was that morning, in the truck, so close to Steve, that I realized it had nothing to do with the particular soap or aftershave but with the proximity. If I could smell a man, he was too close.”), which is about a man who returns with his wife (she’s cheating on him) to her family’s home for Thanksgiving and is compelled to join the other men in a turkey shoot. In my non-reading life, I’m not particularly drawn to hunting, but there’s an anthology waiting to be compiled (perhaps it already has been, for all I know) of great hunting stories. It would include Richard Ford’s “Great Falls” and Tobias Wolff’s “Hunters in the Snow,” along with D’Ambrosio’s “Up North.”

I won’t say too much about Joseph O’Neill’s Netherland, lest I be accused of jumping on the bandwagon. But some bandwagons are worth boarding. Everyone and their cousin has raved about the book (Michiko Kakutani and Dwight Garner in the Times and the NYTBR, respectively; James Wood in The New Yorker), though Wood notwithstanding, the Brits have been among the naysayers (contrary to expectations, Netherland didn’t make the Booker short list and in a recent edition of The New York Review of Books, Zadie Smith slammed Netherland and “lyrical realism” more broadly). But I’m with the Americans (and Wood) on this one. Netherland is a lovely, powerful novel, and the comparisons to Gatsby seem apt.

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