30 July 2007

Jamestown It Is

It's LitBlog Co-op time again, and this quarter's pick is Jamestown by Matthew Sharpe, a bizarre and wonderfully fun novel that LBC nominator Megan Sullivan sums up well:
Set sometime in the future, this book chronicles a group of settlers from Manhattan traveling South in a large bus/tank to establish an outpost in southern Virginia. The book features historical figures like John Smith, Pocahantas and others. Each chapter tells the story from a different character’s perspective. The settlers are led by John Ratliff, whose mother’s boyfriend is the CEO of the Manhattan Company, who are enemies of the Brooklyn Company. The Indians, who speak English (which they try to conceal to the visitors), aren’t technically Indians. They just try to live like them and are “red” because they’re not using strong enough sunscreen. Powhatan leads them with the help of his advisor Sidney Feingold. Pocahantas falls in love with greasy haired communications officer Johnny Rolfe and saves the life of Jack Smith. Like I said, this book is hard to explain without sounding like a nut. It’s wonderfully imaginative and Sharpe uses language to play with the future and the past in a way that made me giggle and fall in love with the book. Suffice it to say that Sharpe’s masterful writing goes beyond just verbal pyrotechnics into a deeper metalanguage of misunderstandings and what happens when two groups who speak the same language still cannot understand one another.
There will be some little changes in how we present LBC picks this quarter, and bigger changes, I expect, for next quarter. There's a certain blahness to how things have been proceeding, and though we as a group generally agree on nothing else, we're not fans of blahness.

Next up will be posts on the other nominees from this quarter, Nicola Griffith's Always, nominated by Gwenda Bond, and Triangle by Katherine Weber, nominated by Levi Asher. Then each book will get its own week of goodness, culminating with a grand Jamestown fest.

I'll be posting about Jamestown, because that was the only one of the three books to really capture my interest. I liked a lot of what Always was up to, but found the narrative voice off-putting in a way that kept me from caring about the events and characters; I think this is more my fault than the book's. Triangle had some interesting moments, but on the whole I found it too contrived and predictable, and the caricature of an academic it offered was a clichéd stereotype. If the book were the Read This pick, I'd write a dissent, but since it's not, there's no point in my beating up on it any further. Jamestown was, I thought, overlong, but the vigor of its language and the persistent oddity of its vision are admirable, offering many pleasures.

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