Some novels you read feverishly, intending to go back and read the skimmed parts after you’ve reached the climax. Then you read the last page and realize, the book was all about the climax and now that you know what happens, there’s nothing in the previous words worth going back for. You’ve read the book, you know the outcome, and you’ll never read the book again. That’s fiction.
Literature is another matter. The story may be engrossing, the characters intriguing, but the manner in which the story is told seduces your senses. Each word is a caress, each sentence follows the other in a foreplay of revelation that must not be rushed. When you get to the end, you close the book and place it on your shelf of favorites to be savored again. That’s literature.
This week in #litchat we’re discussing Literary Gems—those books often overlooked by large publishers and marketing machines, yet praised by literary critics and loved by discerning readers. Joining us on Friday, June 3, is Michael Kimball, author of several critically acclaimed novels. Kimball’s most recent novel, Us, takes readers into the last days of a care-worn marriage nuanced with the unfashionable love of a bygone era. The brutal honesty of an elderly man coming to grip with the sickness and then death of a beloved wife reads like a voyeuristic documentary and yet each scene captures the profound sense of loss this man faces with each breath he endures. Interlaced into this fictional account of the author’s grandparent’s last days is Kimball’s personal revelations about death and dying and what it means to be the remaining boot in a pair that once walked side by side with strength and dignity.
At once fiction and memoir, Us blends the two devices seamlessly. An author unafraid of experimentation, Kimball is the author of four books, including Dear Everybody (which The Believer calls “a curatorial masterpiece”). His work has been on NPR’s All Things Considered and in Vice, as well as The Guardian, Prairie Schooner, and New York Tyrant. His books have been translated into a dozen languages—including Italian, Spanish, German, Chinese, Korean, and Greek. He is also responsible for Michael Kimball Writes Your Life Story (on a postcard), a couple of documentaries, the 510 Readings, and the conceptual pseudonym Andy Devine.
Follow Michael Kimball on Twitter: @michaelkimball.