Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Salon's 2006 best fiction picks

Laura Miller and Hillary Frey tag four novels and one short story collection in Salon's "best fiction of 2006" feature.

The one that I've noticed the least publicity about:
Amalgamation Polka by Stephen Wright

This is not your grandfather's Civil War novel, but who would expect that from Stephen Wright, that rare combination of literary wild man and flawless prose stylist? A Candide-like figure named Liberty Fish -- child of a renegade Southern belle and the Yankee abolitionist she eloped with -- joins the Union army and wends his way back to his maternal grandfather's plantation. Along the way, he meets all sorts of people -- pirates, soldiers, preachers and con men -- most of them driven half (or all the way) mad by their inability to make the American dream of freedom and the American reality of race add up to anything plausible. At the end of his journey he finds the heart of the nightmare in its ultimate, florid, night-blooming manifestation: his demented grandfather, Asa, trying to create -- avant Norman Mailer -- a white negro. This novel is a plummet down the black rabbit hole of American utopianism, with the brakes off and the seat belts removed, and it's one hell of a ride.
Click here to read about the other books that made the list.

--Marshal Zeringue