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The Powell's Playlist | August 6, 2014

Graham Joyce: IMG The Powell’s Playlist: Graham Joyce

The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit is set on the English coast in the hot summer of 1976, so the music in this playlist is pretty much all from the... Continue »
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Sweet Charlotte's Seventh Mistake by Cori Crooks
Sweet Charlotte's Seventh Mistake

Ellen Etc, August 17, 2014

A wild child, CeAnne was brought up hard, and as the 1950s turned into the 1960s, she became reckless, promiscuous, dangerous, drug-addled, hungry for adventure and love, a compulsive liar. By turns fun, erotic, and vindictive, she became the fatal attraction for a number of men, to the detriment of seven children -- two of whom she bore in prison at the age of 18.
Now imagine that you’re the best friend of this enigmatic, feral woman-child, because you’re the baby from her great love, your father, who is now dead in a foolish accident. Cori Crooks tells her story in this intense, scrapbook style memoir, reminiscent of Michele Tea’s "Rent Girl." The characters in "Sweet Charlotte’s Seventh Mistake" will continue to haunt you as you grasp how much damage one irresponsible woman can do to so many children, how much they will depend on the kindness of strangers, and how, eventually, one can make some peace with an unimaginable childhood.
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Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi
Boy, Snow, Bird

Ellen Etc, August 3, 2014

Boy Novak is doomed from the start. Daughter of a capricious and brutal rat exterminator in New York City, she escapes in the late 1950s to marry Arturo Whitman, a widower with a charming little daughter, Snow. But when Boy and Arturo’s daughter Bird is born and dark family secrets come to light, Boy’s heart hardens against her step-daughter Snow. The novel illuminates the national divides in the first half of the 20th century, with resonances before and beyond, suggesting the many different Americas we may inhabit, depending on our backgrounds and the ability of previous generations to truthfully reveal our heritages. When a narrator’s “voice” becomes unrealistic for the character, read it as allegory -- the book is deliberately layered and fantastic.
The novel also brings to mind the Biblical story of Jacob and Esau. "Missing mothers" and "family secrets," yes indeed, but I suggest the novel’s best benefit is like that of Jack London's working-class novel "Martin Eden," in that it shows the privileged how long the lingering effects of injustice and the corrosion of inequality continue to resonate.

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The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave
The Death of Bunny Munro

Ellen Etc, June 10, 2014

I read this book when it first came out, and it has stuck with me all this time, in a "Naked Lunch" kind of way. Manic, depressing, but quite lovely writing, especially the hallucinatory scenes.
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Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

Ellen Etc, June 9, 2014

In this YA graphic novel, Kimberly Keiko Cameron, aka Skim, is an introspective 16-year-old caught up in her high school’s anti-suicide frenzy after a boy kills himself. She also has a mean best friend, Lisa, and a dangerous crush on an art teacher. The existential, unresolved ending was annoying, though; why end the story exactly there? Still, the diary format and wonderfully layered drawings combine beautifully to tell stories of high-school angst, the superficiality of popularity, and how relationships grow, change, break apart, and sometimes break our hearts.
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The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
The Panopticon

Ellen Etc, June 9, 2014

Anais has been under state care in her home country (Scotland) for her entire life. She’s incorrigible and is charged with putting a Police Constable into a coma -- and given her bad attitude and street skills, she could have done it. Now 15, for the duration of the investigation Anais has been transferred to a state home for teenagers, the Panopticon, a facility built as a prison with open cells around a central watchtower. Who is watching these clients? Where did Anais come from, really?
Reminding me of nothing so much as "The Death of Bunny Munro" by Nick Cave in its randomness, inevitability, and impact, "The Panopticon" is a novel of a wayward soul, self-medicating and resourceful, one with gritty determination to survive against hopeless odds.

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