note: so recently i got an advance (VERY advance) copy of Nick Harkaway’s forthcoming (not until March 2012ish, DO NOT HATE ME PLEASE) novel ANGELMAKER. i have been informed i am allowed to talk about it, so here goes nothing. full apologies to the author, i am embarrassingly emotional in this post and Nick i am just going to pretend that you never read this. k thx bye.
what does it mean to have a favorite book? not just a book that you enjoy, a book that you think other people should read, but an all-time favorite book? what makes it special? aside from good writing and awesome characters and yadda yadda yadda. i was contemplating this as i read ANGELMAKER, because it has joined GONE-AWAY WORLD as an all-time favorite, and i was trying to pinpoint what it is about Harkaway’s books that makes me insane with glee. and here is my theory.
we all live with the knowledge that the world is broken, in myriad ways. and what art does, at the most basic level, is to point out the breaks in the world. some breaks mean more to us than others, which determines in turn the art that we find interesting, relevant, compelling. and every artist (and author specifically) approaches these breaks differently. some just want to show us the breaks, because they think maybe we haven’t noticed and/or truly appreciated exactly how broken these bits are. some have thoughts about how we could/should think/feel about the breaks in question. some even have thoughts on how we could maybe make things less broken. it’s all about viewpoint, perspective, and what you do with the knowledge. how you get past it, or around it, or through it. how we live with the brokenness.
and sometimes an author’s perspective on these breaks lines up so exactly, so perfectly, so movingly with our own perspective, that we experience that great and awe-ful feeling of YES! THIS!. and that is what makes a book our favorite. and that is why so often we return again and again to a certain author, whose vision so neatly dovetails with our own. and this is why it is notoriously chancy to recommend your favorite books to others, because really we are all very different, and that’s as it should be, but it makes favorite books a truly personal thing, and it’s always a bit of a shock when we find that people we think we know well feel differently about the world than we do.
that is my theory. i know, i’m ridiculous. i will now stop theorizing and give you more specifics:
GONE-AWAY WORLD is one of my all-time favorite books, and now ANGELMAKER is as well.
i’ve been pretty vocal about my love for his first book, THE GONE-AWAY WORLD, but to recap: i had a friend write the words of the first page all over me for the bookrageous calendar. my pitch goes something like this: OH MY GOD IT’S SO GOOD. it’s this post-apocalyptic, political, funny, clever, adventure-ee, crazy story with a huge twist about three quarters of the way through that i swear to god i didn’t see coming, not really, and also there are ninjas and mimes and you should really read it, i think you’ll like it.
articulate, right? i know.
so, understandably, i was very excited for the new book. and it delivers, and how. it’s completely different — it’s set in our world, in our time, and features among others a kick-ass batty aging British MI-5 type (oh Edie Bannister! i may never get over you) and the son of a gangster named Joe Spork who would really just like to be left alone so he can make clocks, thank you very much, and tells the story of how they save the world. yes. excellent. i think you’ll like it.