Quirk·y (kwərkē) adjective
1. characterized by peculiar or unexpected traits. As in “her sense of humor was decidedly quirky”.
Synonyms: eccentric, idiosyncratic, unconventional, unorthodox, unusual, strange, bizarre, peculiar, odd, outlandish, zany, offbeat.
This week’s list (as hosted by The Broke and the Bookish) is books that I would recommend to “x” people. In this case, x is equal to quirky (see above definition*). Blogging is inherently dishonest. We present our best selves (mostly, I should think). The life and opinions we put forth tend to be very curated. And honestly, if you think about it, it’s strange to be known online only (i.e. you know what my home library looks like, my coworkers don’t even know that, and I spend 40 odd hours a week with them). I do intentionally try to be forthright and true (to myself), so that should I be lucky enough to meet you in real life (which might happen soon with a few of you – so excited!), my odd personality won’t come as a shock. That being said, I can’t imagine it is surprising that I like books that can also be identified as quirky/unconventional/offbeat/odd/peculiar. So, here are ten of those** books:
10. The Teleportation Accident by Ned Bauman. “A historical novel that doesn’t know what year it is; a noir novel that turns all the lights on; a romance novel that arrives drunk to dinner; a science fiction novel that can’t remember what ‘isotope’ means; a stunningly inventive, exceptionally funny, dangerously unsteady and (largely) coherent novel about sex, violence, space, time, and how the best way to deal with history is to ignore it.”
9. I’ll Never Get Out of This World Alive by Steve Earle. The main character lives with the ghost of Hank Williams (whom he may or may not have killed). Literally.
8. The Rathbones by Janice Clark. If Tim Burton collaborated with Charles Addams to rewrite and combine The Odyssey and Moby-Dick, you would get ‘The Rathbones’. Janice Clark’s singular debut, a gothic adventure novel set in New England, is one of the most intriguing new novels this year (for the imagery and originality, if nothing else).
7. Ablutions by Patrick deWitt. A deadpan, darkly funny (if you can get past the heartbreak) novel told in the second person. The novel is only 164 pages long, but any longer and the bleak bar vignettes might get too depressing to handle. It is a novel about addiction that does not judge. It has more than a hint of Bukowski and the dry humor and malicious pleasure required to earn such a comparison.
6. The Flame Alphabet by Ben Marcus. A darkly imaginative, mildly horrific tale from what must be a curious imagination. If you like the sparse post-apocalyptic landscape of Zone One, the monochromatic feel of Let the Right One In, and the compelling horror of Pontypool Changes Everything, read The Flame Alphabet. If you haven’t heard of at least two of those, skip this one and save yourself the aggravation.
5. The Universe in Miniature in Miniature by Patrick Somerville. (In rereading this review, I was terribly, unforgivably punny. Sorry.). Did you know that Albert Einstein originally used Gedanken experiments to explore his illegal sexual fantasies? No? Neither did I. Read this book.
4. Donnybrook by Frank Bill. A novel about a fight’s large grand prize that attracts deviants, psychopaths, the desperate, and the vengeful from miles around. This list of attractive attendees draws those who would like to tend to their needs – mainly as suppliers of illegal substances to be used and abused in the name of killing pain and creating courage. The result is, indeed, a fracas.
3. Festival Man by Geoff Berner. “In this satirical send-up of the Canadian music scene, maverick band manager Campbell Ouiniette makes a final, flailing, and destructive bid for glory as he attempts to pull the ultimate scam on the Calgary Folk Festival.”
2. In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods by Matt Bell. Because I cannot say it better, I’m borrowing from The Daily Beast, “Bell has crafted a terrifying and entirely spell-binding story about what it means to be a husband, a father, and, more simply, a man”. But more importantly, there is a bear, a squid, a fingerling, and a foundling.
1. Autobiography of a Corpse by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky. These (to borrow from NYRB) are fantastic and blackly comic philosophical fables, which abound in nested narratives and wild paradoxes. This is actually my current read and it is…highly unusual.
Do you like reading books outside of mainstream fiction? Will you give any of these quirky books a try? I hope you do.
*I don’t identify myself as quirky as I feel quirky has become synonymous with hipster (which is a term that now describes a sub-culture that was initially intended to value independent thought and progressive politics, but instead describes intentional mainstream obscurism), I’m just well aware that I’m a very particular person with a very particular sense of humor.
**Those as in good books by good writers that can be enjoyed by anyone whose interest is piqued.