Posted by: Matt Compton | February 16, 2011

What I’ve been reading

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell: Swamplandia! is an alligator-wrestling-centered tourist trap, run by the Bigtree family. But when Ava Bigtree’s mother — Hilola — dies from ovarian cancer, the theme park loses its star attraction — and the Bigtree clan loses the force that keeps it together. Ava’s brother leaves to find a life bigger than the one planned for him, her father sets off to try to keep the business afloat, and her sister announces plans to elope — with the ghost of a boy who has been dead for 70 years. If all of this sounds weird, it is — but the strangeness is compelling, and the writing is too damn good to believe.

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff: Even in her own day, Cleopatra was an individual susceptible to myth and slander. Through the course of history, that tendency has become even more pronounced. But Schiff’s biography cuts through the legends and outright propaganda to reveal a substantive and commanding figure. With wit and brilliant, burnished writing, Schiff shows the true Cleopatra as a clear-eyed queen with talent and genius.

A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan: This is an incredible novel, written as a series of time-hopping, genre-bending, interconnected stories about rebellion, rock and roll, and loss. Sharply-poignant bits of heartache flow into acute, pitch-perfect moments of satire. No chapter is better than the 70 page power point presentation toward the end of the book.

Room: A Novel by Emma Donoghue: In five-year-old Jack, Donoghue has created a narrator who is wholly unforgettable — and unlike anyone else in fiction. That voice, by itself, is reason enough to read this novel. A captive since birth, an 11-by-11-foot room and his mother are all that Jack has ever known. But their liberation changes everything.



  1. I loved Cleopatra and Room, and I was just thinking about starting A Visit from the Goon Squad last night.

    Now I will take the plunge!

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