The Polish Boxer by Eduardo Halfon (2012, Bellevue Literary Press; 188 pages)
The Polish Boxer is probably one of the best books I have read this year. The blurb on its back reads : "A young Eduardo Halfon believed in the lie that the green tattoo on his grandfather’s arm was a phone number. Grown up, a writer and a professor, he believes in literature, in music, in a friend’s digressive, confessional, mythical postcards, in his girlfriend’s graphs of the arcs, plateaus and spikes of her orgasms. He learns the real story of the tattoo, and he thinks and journeys in pursuit of what makes a person and what makes a story."
The main character in the book is a man in search of answers to big questions: he is trying to figure out who he is, where he came from and where is going. The Polish Boxer is a book about encountering, about confronting oneself, or others. It is a book about the meaning of the word exile, both forced and self-imposed. It is also a delightful journey through different geographies, some of which I happen to love, like Guatemala. It is a book about survivors of the Nazi horror, about Serbia and about America. It is a superb reading, one of those that you want to start reading again as soon as it has ended.
You can read an excerpt from the book here
For a conversation with the author about the book, click here
To listen to the author, Guatemalan Eduardo Halfon, talking about the book and more, click here
Find this title in our catalog: The Polish Boxer
Recommended by: Maite
CARTHAGE -- a mesmerizing novel that examines grief, faith, justice, and the atrocities of war through the story of a young girl's disappearance in a small adirondack town
Carthage by Joyce Carol Oates (2014, Ecco; 512 pages)
Zeno Mayfield's daughter has disappeared into the night, gone missing in the wilds of the Adirondacks. But when the community of Carthage joins a father's frantic search for the girl, they discover instead the unlikeliest of suspects - a decorated Iraq War veteran with close ties to the Mayfield family. As grisly evidence mounts against the troubled war hero, the family must wrestle with the possibility of having lost a daughter forever.
The author dedicates 200 pages to the crime and its aftermath. This part of the book is really interesting, but when the book really takes us to a new level is when it changes direction toward a different plotline based on an idiosyncratic professor investigating the American prison system. Through his investigation the reader is going to learn of the implications his inquiry may have for the fates of the main characters in the book, Cressida and Brett, building up an irresistible ending that blows the reader away.
The book is written in a careful and elegant prose and the author also experiments with form. Oates succeeds one more time.
From The New York Times:
“The title of this novel resonates with classically tragic overtones, which the author clearly intends. The word 'Carthage' summons thoughts of the ancient world: of Virgil’s jilted Dido, queen of Carthage, spurned by Aeneas, who put service to nation above love. It also recalls St. Augustine’s contempt for his youthful dissipation in his 'Confessions': 'To Carthage then I came, where there sang all around me in my ears a caldron of unholy loves.' T. S. Eliot wove St. Augustine’s self-recriminating words into 'The Waste Land,' deepening its subtext of sexual regret. And now Oates draws on those archetypes to lend context and gravitas to the tragedies of our own time, plumbing their mythic force.”
Find this title in our catalog: Carthage
Recommended by: Maite