Florida - by Christine Schutt
I have a tiny shelf of books I've named my Sacred Texts Shelf. These are books that are so exquisite that I will not give them away, but I will (and do) buy a crate of them and mail them to my friends. Florida is one of my Sacred Texts.
A tiny sample of Schutt's magnificent writing:
The sealed room where we slept was very cold and dark, and Walter was in the corner, without his shorts on, drinking, and his body, I saw, was wildly hairy . He saw me looking at him, and he said, “I hate you, too.”
There isn't a single extra word in this slim novel.
The book description from Goodreads.com is: In this elegiac and luminous novel, which John Ashbery called "an amazing achievement" and Mary Gordon dubbed "a wholly original endeavor," Christine Schutt gives voice to the feast of memory, the mystery of the mad and missing, and the power of words.
Set in the Midwest, where Florida represents a faraway paradise, this novel tells the story of Alice Fivey. Fatherless since she was seven, Alice is left in the care of her relatives at the age of ten, when her mother, whose "toenails winked in the foil bed we knew for Florida," is institutionalized. Alice is moved from place to place, remaining still while others try to mold her into someone different from her mother. She consoles herself with books and becomes a storyteller herself as she moves into adulthood, ever further from the desolation of her mother's actions and closer to the meaning of her own experience.
Told in brief scenes of spare beauty, Florida is a graceful and gripping tale of family, forgiveness, and creation of the self.
In addition to buying this book, read her New York Times interview with Deborah Solomon.
Here's Ms. Solomon's first question and Ms. Schutt's first answer:
Q: What is it like to be attacked by your fellow novelists for having written a novel that reportedly sold only 100 copies? Thomas McGuane said publicly that the National Book Awards underwent a "meltdown" by selecting finalists as obscure as you.
A: It surprises me very much. It surprises me that Tom McGuane could damn my book without having read it. And by the way, "Florida" has actually sold at least 1,099 copies.
Snap! How can you not love that woman with an answer like that?
About Susan Edsall
Writing is how I make my way through the thicket of what we’ve made of this planet we’re on. It takes me a long time and lots of words. Social media mystifies me. How do so many people have so much to say, so quickly, and with such resolute certainty? Read more about Susan >