The ToB, presented by Field Notes, is here!

It's the 2023 Tournament of Books, presented by Field Notes! And it's finals week! Dig in!

Current Reads

Destination Unknown

Jami Attenberg's second novel, The Melting Season, is an interior and exterior road trip.

Book Cover I’d be surprised that if you are here reading the results of my keyboard clattering(s) you haven’t somehow heard about The Melting Season (Riverhead) by Jami Attenberg (The Kept Man). From my aerie in suburban Boston I can tell there is a minor groundswell of approval for Attenberg’s second novel—with gatekeepers like the Chicago Tribune’s Pulizter-winning cultural commentator Julia Keller asserting:
Attenberg’s prose is like an unmanned drone: It does its work quickly, impersonally, but in the end, the target’s in tatters just the same….But Attenberg’s narrative voice—a lean, straight-ahead, deadpan tone that cuts cleanly through Catherine’s hypocrisy and self-pity like a laser-guided strike—makes The Melting Season singular and disquieting.
Not to put too fine a point on it, I don’t see it that way—but it is a place to begin.

Catherine “Moonie” Madison lived in a small Nebraska town, whose claustrophobic aspect she skillfully evokes early on as we are told that she has been skimming money from her husband’s cache, eventually taking it all and leaving town, heading west. Her first=person account—sometimes digressive, sometimes unflinchingly direct—is a large risk taken; you are required to find her running monologue engaging. Which I did, and chunks like this kept me reading on:
Still Las Vegas looked like nonsense to me, a cartoon version of a real town. I knew buildings came from somewhere, that they did not just pop up out of thin air. But it seemed like Las Vegas was made from scratch, there was nothing around for miles and then all of a sudden there were these huge towers that were imitations of real places. There was a circus and there was ancient Rome and there was the Eiffel Tower. Somebody built these, I kept thinking. Where I come from the buildings were small and all made sense. They served a purpose. This seems almost immoral. But I could not say I minded it either. Everything new I saw made me feel like I was on the way to figuring myself out.
Catherine has made it to (as you read above) Las Vegas where she befriends tough-minded Valka, and the rest of the narrative is seen by Keller and others as a kind of Thelma and Louise, which may also have an allure for some readers and which, unlike the ladies from the aforementioned buddy movie, she survives hopeful and somewhat intact:
And when I am ready to emerge from this cocoon of doctor’s offices and ledgers and the strong scent of roses and orchids, I think I will rise like the sun. Brilliant and mighty, I will blind someone with my love.

But I am in no hurry.
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