Friday, April 4, 2008

"The News from Paraguay" by Lily Tuck

Unrelenting sex drives, senseless murders, a brutal war, intriguing foreign locations, unconscionable acts, out of control masturbation, insanity topped by humiliation like a pineapple perched on an ice cream sundae, and consternation of purpose must be the elements necessary to win the National Book Award. This novel had it all and won that honor. But it lacks a sense of continuity, character depth, and an overarching theme. Passages of extraordinary beauty dot the novel. Small empathetic scenes drove me to tears. But in between, you had to suffer the hop-scotching 1854 to 1870 story told mostly by Ella Lynch. As the Irish-born lover of the President for Life, Franco, Ella bears him many children while he leads Paraguay into a ruinous war for unclear reasons. The last line in the book saved it from a lower rating. Ella's final realization is that he is as dead to her in her in memory as he is in life. This historical love story, a great labor of love, fell short of its promise and earns a three from me.

NOTE: I was stunned to see that on Amazon, this story has a 2.5 star rating.


paul lamb said...

I will prowl these award lists for fresh writing, but I'm generally disappointed (or at least, not wowed) by the latest winners.

I've had better luck finding one writer I like and reading his/her works in depth. That's certainly been the case with Philip Roth and Iris Murdoch.

Rick Bylina said...

Perhaps that's a track I could try.

I thought about my disappointment, with "TNFP". I'm rarely let down with the genre award winners. I'm sure there is politics within the genres also, but it seems the literary award winners are hit and miss with their choices and that maybe politics or "the author has paid his/her dues" has as much to do with winning as the current selection.

Or maybe it's just me, and I like what I like. I'd probably tell the Emporer he had no clothes on...then run like the wind.