Sunday, October 28, 2012

Five notable novels not about humans

Carol Birch is the author of Jamrach’s Menagerie and ten other novels. She has won the David Higham Prize for Life in the Palace, the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize for The Fog Line, and was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2003 for Turn Again Home.

For the Wall Street Journal she named five top novels not about humans, including:
Only Human
by Jenny Diski (2000)

This elegant and hugely entertaining work imagines one of the first great family sagas. The author of eight novels, Diski has been consistent in her attraction to such complex themes as chaos, madness and the longing for nonexistence. "Like Mother" (1989), was narrated by Nony (short for "nonentity"), a baby born without a brain. In "Only Human" she dares to choose God himself as a protagonist. Misunderstood, wanting only to be loved, God is, in this portrayal, anxious to present his side of the whole messy business of creation. He speaks to Abram, and Abram hears, for which God loves him. But Sarai, Abram's wife, hears nothing. God and Sarai engage in a profoundly complicated war for the love of Abram—one focused on a child. Hagar, the slave girl who bears Abram a proxy heir at Sarai's command, is central to one stage in this battle, as Isaac, adored child of Sarai and Abram's old age, is to another. God's terrible final demand is that Abram offer Isaac as a sacrifice. This is God's nuclear bomb, the one that wins the war but at an unbearable price, breaking all hearts including his own.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue