The Good Brother and other books

Posted by on Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

The Good Brother by Chris Offutt

I’m a huge fan of Chris Offutt’s work, which I was introduced to as a college student with a serious devotion to Appalachian Studies.  Knowing that Offutt has been focusing on writing for TV rather than churning out stories and novels for the last several years, I just help on to this book.  I guess I was saving it for the lean times.

The novel follows Virgil Caudill, a young man from rural Kentucky who is trying to come to terms with his brother’s murder.  His community expects Virgil to avenge his brother Boyd’s murder, and Virgil feels that he can never match his brother’s charisma or generosity.  Virgil ends up building a false identity and leaving Kentucky for rural Montana.  Once there, he becomes entwined with a community of radical survivalists who he can’t seem to make sense of or escape.

Offutt’s prose is beautiful.  I’ve read so much “genre fiction” from Appalachia that seems tired and flat–Offutt’s never is.  He has an understanding of rural mountain culture that feels unmatched, and his exploration of the concept of manhood and its attendant responsibilities and pitfalls fascinates me.  I am particularly touched by his clarity in expressing views on race and difference in Appalachia.  One of the greatest slanders about the place is that it’s full of hateful people–that’s just not true.

I didn’t love this book quite as much as I did Out of the Woods and Kentucky Straight, in part because Offutt is such an exemplary short story writer.  But The Good Brother will haunt me.

And now I get to wallow in some delicious Willa Cather.

I’ve been keeping my nose in books a lot lately, so here are some mini-reviews of some recent goodies.

Material Obsession 2: More Modern Quilts with Traditional Roots by Kathy Doughty and Sarah Fielke. This book absolutely floored me. I wasn’t previously familiar with either author, since I’m really just getting into quilt blogs and contemporary designers. But when I started flipping through the pages, I was immediately hooked. I don’t generally go in for books of patterns because I tend to just learn how to piece a particular block or style and the go from there, but this book is full of quilts I want to make. I’ve read some complaints about the patterns themselves, but since I don’t rely much on pattern instructions once I’ve cut what I need to cut, that doesn’t worry me too much. What does worry me is that I’ll never have enough time to make all of them, or enough beds to put them on.

Quilt Remix: Spin Traditional Favorites Into 10 Fresh Projects by Emily Cier: This has some very interesting projects for modern quilts that are departures from traditional patterns.  I think a few of her concepts are particularly beautiful and interesting, including her takes on Ohio Star and Trip Around the World.  I am desperately trying to remain faithful to the quilt top I’m putting  together now, but I can’t wait to start a new project.

Hogfather by Terry Pratchett. All of my Pratchett books came from our late friend Mike, and this seemed like the right winter to read this book. It’s fun and light, but also explores some questions about myth and belief that I find very interesting.

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett. More lightness in winter. It’s silly but fun, and introduces a few characters that figure in the series. I’m reading these books all out of order, so it’s like I came across a prequel.

Goddess Embroideries of the Balkan Lands and the Greek Islands by Mary B. Kelly. I love this series of books. I haven’t necessarily used any of the images as a basis for embroidery patterns, but they are having a huge effect on my sense of shape and color in stitchery.

Leviathan and Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld. I loved these books! I can’t wait for the third one to come out. They’re excellent YA steampunk books set in an alternate pre-WWI past, where national alliances group those countries that use Darwinian concepts to develop genetically altered animals and those countries that rely on mechanics and combustion engines. I love the protagonist. Love her.

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I did manage to wait until the third books was about to be released before picking these up, and I’m so glad I did. I had to race through them, they were so compelling. The distopian YA series follows Katniss, a 16 year old girl from what is now Appalachia who is chosen to compete in a horrible arena called The Hunger Games against a young man from her home town and teenagers from the rest of their country. I loved the series.

Filed in 12 books in 12 months,Books,embroidery,sewing | 2 responses so far

2 Responses to “The Good Brother and other books”

  1. gayleon 21 Jan 2011 at 2:49 pm 1

    The first Terry Pratchett I ever read was Reaper Man – I stumbled across it at the library, never having heard of Pratchett. The second was Hogfather. After that, I inhaled them as fast as I could find them…

  2. kon 22 Jan 2011 at 9:27 pm 2

    I tried the first Discworld book, but it didn’t take hold. I guess I’ll wander around til I find something that does.

    And yes, I’m starting to look at quilts myself. Put up some links, eh? The ones I stumbled into dead-ended.

    And YA book are really getting good.

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