Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer, by Wesley Stace: I had a college roommate who was obsessed with John Wesley Harding. She played his music constantly, went to every show, cherished the dream that he would become her betrothed, sweeping her off to a life of bliss. The more I heard, the less I could stand. And yet John Wesley Harding, who uses his not-stage name, Wesley Stace, when he’s writing, wrote one of my favorite books of 2011. Charles Jessold, Considered as a Murderer is a story of creativity and expropriation with murder, of course. The genius-and-envy tensions between two musicians in the early 20th-century England play out in the style of Salieri and Mozart, told by a funnily pretentious, unreliable narrator. Just as his voice gets to be a little too much, the book makes a turn, and the plot cinches with a cleverness and perfection rarely found in literary fiction, which this is. It’s really terrific. It’s even made me like John Wesley Harding’s music, after all.
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