Well, certainly, Steven, I'm glad to share my thoughts on deciding on nominations.
Maybe we're more alike than we sometimes think, Steven (D.H. Lawrence, anyone?) The Vollmann novel I was considering is Europe Central and the Danielewski is House of Leaves.
I think Europe Central sounds fascinating. Real and imagined Germans and Russians in a World War II epic. The great composer Shostakovich is apparently an important character. However, at 832 pages, it's very long for our group. And I have read a bit of Vollmann already and he can certainly be an exhausting read.
I am definitely planning on reading House of Leaves. It sounds structurally fascinating, and I have been told by friends that it is disturbing, unsettling, and frightening. Fear is a very personal response like humor, but I was not comfortable nominating a book that appears to be a horror novel, no matter how literary and imaginative it may be.
From Dave Eggers, I was considering Zeitoun, which seems to be another of the sort of "nonfiction novels" in which he specializes. The idea of a post-Katrina hero being arrested as a suspected Al-Qaeda member is mind-boggling, especially since it is apparently true. I hesitated to introduce a story freighted with so much contemporary politics. I did not want our discussion to get derailed in potentially disruptive extra-literary disagreements. It seemed best to steer clear of politics. (I mean, I assume the core members of our group are essentially on the same page, but still...)
The T.C. Boyle contender was The Women, a novel about Frank Lloyd Wright told from the perspective of his wives and lovers. This sounds interesting to me, but I wasn't sure the rest of the group would have much interest in architects.
From Madison Smartt Bell, I was considering All Soul's Rising. It's the first book of a trilogy about the Haitian revolution in the 1790's. I understand that it can be read as a complete novel in itself, and the story of the first New World revolution following the United States being a black slave uprising sounds fascinating. Reading Amazon reviews, I became aware that the book is extremely (and perhaps unnecessarily) violent. Consequently, i struck it from my list.
Which leaves us with Jennifer Egan. A Visit from the Goon Squad is the most honored novel of the past year, winning three major awards including the Pulitzer and the National Book Critics Circle Award. However, a plot involving an ex-punk rocker music executive and his kleptomaniac assistant somehow didn't sound like something we would all enjoy. I have also been wanting to read The Keep by Egan, but did not nominate it because it has rather mixed reviews.
So there you have it. Both why I was attracted to the books and why I ultimately did not nominate them. (I told you I was long-winded!)
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