Posts Tagged ‘Edward P. Jones’

Some Fiction From the First Decade of the 2000s (2000-2009) That is Too Good to be Forgotten

 

Below are ten works of fiction from the early 2000s all about which I became enthusiastic and which led me to put these writers in my Must-Read category.

 

‘The Other Side of You’ by Salley Vickers (2006) – Salley Vickers connects the great works of art, in this case the art of Caravaggio, with the conscious daily lives of her characters in a compelling way. Her novels are definitely literary, yet are as light as a soufflé.

 

 

 

‘Ludlow’ by David Mason (2007) – Here is a novel-in-verse but not with the subject matter you would expect for a novel in verse. The coal miners of Ludlow, Colorado go on strike in 1914, one of the cruelest, bloodiest chapters in the history of American labor. The verse novel strategy works brilliantly to describe scenes that are not always pretty.

 

‘The Beauty of the Husband’ – A Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos by Anne Carson (2001) – In lyrical lines that suggest the movements of tango dancers, Carson describes scenes from a doomed marriage. This is a modern take on the intimate cruelties of marriage.

Three minutes of reality

All I ever asked

She stands looking out at rain on the roof.”

‘The Inheritance of Loss’ by Kiran Desai (2006) – I read much of the work of her mother Anita Desai, and daughter Kiran Desai carries on brilliantly. ‘The Inheritance of Loss’ has depth, emotion, hilarity, and imagination; what more can you ask for?. But why hasn’t Kiran Desai published any fiction since 2006?

 

 

 

‘The Known World’ by Edward P. Jones (2003) – By focusing on a black slave owner, Edward P. Jones avoids turning this novel into a morality play of good and evil. There is no one preaching. The matter-of-fact tone only intensifies the reader’s reaction to this story.

 

 

 

‘Black Swan Green’ by David Mitchell (2006) – This is David Mitchell’s lightest most engaging novel, and it is my favorite of his work.

These jokes the world plays, they’re not funny at all.”

 

 

 

‘Gilgamesh’ by Joan London (2001) – A teenage woman and her young child take an amazing trip from rural Western Australia to Armenia and back. This is a blunt and beautifully written novel that deals with life’s tough truths.

 

 

 

 

‘John Henry Days’ by Colson Whitehead (2001) – Even before ‘Underground Railroad’, Colson Whitehead wrote wonderful novels. This novel is more humorous and thus more fun for me than ‘Underground Railroad’. Sometimes it seems writers lose their lightness as they get older.

 

 

‘Lush Life’ by Richard Price (2008) – Richard Price is the excellent writer of novels that take place on the streets of New York. He lived in a housing project as a child and knows all about the city street life. He has branched out to writing for TV and the movies, but I have followed his written fiction from the beginning.

 

 

 

‘How the Light Gets In’ by M. J. Hyland (2004) In 2004, M. J. Hyland was the new female novelist who burst on the scene with this her first wonderful novel and got much of the attention and some awards. After reading this novel and her next, ‘Carry Me Down’, I put her in my must-read category. However she has not published a novel since 2009.

 

 

Generosity’ by Richard Powers (2009) – A likable and passionate novel about the search for happiness and the Happiness gene. And you thought our state of mind was the result of happy or sad events in our lives?

 

Happy Reading!

‘The Known World’ by Edward P. Jones – A Great Novel from Early in This Century

‘The Known World’ by Edward P. Jones (2003) –  388 pages

the-known-world

Of all the novels that were published in the early 2000s, the one I have most regretted not having read was ‘The Known World’.  I have read both of his two spectacular collections of stories, ‘Lost in the City’ and ‘Aunt Hagar’s Children’, so I knew how profound and moving a writer Jones is.  ‘The Known World’ won both the Pulitzer Prize and the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, so it was way past time that I read this novel.

‘The Known World’ recreates the rural world that included slavery in the state of Virginia in the 1850s.  Slaves – humans – were the property of slave owners and were bought and sold.  In Virginia a few of the slave owners were black, and that is a situation that is dealt with in this novel.  By this time Great Britain had already outlawed slavery throughout the entire British Empire.  The nearby state of Pennsylvania passed a law in 1780 that gradually abolished slavery so that by 1860 there were no slaves in the state.  The American South was one of the few last places in the world that still allowed slavery.  The Civil War was still a few years away.

There were the slave owners, the slaves, and those people who neither owned slaves nor were slaves.  Up to three quarters of the white people did not own slaves.  As opposed to the slaves who had a specific property value, these white people had no recognizable value to the slave owners.

The slaves were either field slaves or house slaves.  The house slaves sometimes grew quite close to the owner and the owner’s family due to proximity.

Since the slaves had a property value to the owners, most owners would take care of their property.  There were some vicious owners who did not and would usually wind up with their farms foreclosed.  This only caused more devastation for the slaves as they would be auctioned off, their families split up.

Slaves who attempted to run away and were caught were often hobbled by having their Achilles tendon cut.  Then they could never run away again and would walk with a hobble for the rest of their lives.

By focusing on a black slave owner, Edward P. Jones avoids turning this re-creation of the days of slavery into a morality play of good and evil.   There is no one preaching in this novel.  The matter-of-fact tone of this narrative only intensifies the reader’s reaction to the events in the story.

edward jonesJones’ strong story-telling skills are on full display here.  We care what happens to all of these characters.

I’m happy that I went back and caught one of the big novels from the early part of this century.  Now that I’m caught up with the work of Edward P. Jones, all I can do is wait for his next novel or collection of stories.

 

%d bloggers like this: