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In books: Eric Kraft, Flannery O'Connor versus Marlon James and more

March 8, 2009 |  2:13 pm


Eric Kraft's new book "Flying" adds a new work, "Flying Home," to the previously published "Taking Off" and "On The Wing." Kraft is hard to pin down -- in his review, Richard Rayner compares Kraft to the very serious Proust and Nabokov and the ever-silly P.G. Wodehouse. Blogger Ed Champion gathered eight contemporaries to get a handle on the book; their discussion is posted in a four-part series. Part 5 consists of Kraft's responses, including a funny illustration demonstrating the relationship among the author, the world and the author's brain.

In today's books pages, Susan Straight reviews "The Book of Night Women" by Marlon James:

It is a book as heavily peopled and dark as the night in this isolated and brutal place. It is a canticle of love and hate: "Still, though, hate and love be closer cousin than like and dislike," says Homer, the most powerful woman on Montpelier, where slaves are given fanciful Greek names by their British owners. ... The novel can be unrelentingly violent, and the litany of terror, torture and revenge is long and horrifically detailed. But if that seems rather grim, it's nothing in comparison with how it must have been to the slaves.

James recently wrote a blog post for his publisher, Penguin. "I'm not writing," he wrote. "I'm not sure why I procrastinate so much, but I know I'm not alone. Next to actual writing, procrastination is what writers do best." One of his means of procrastination is blogging; Saturday he took on Flannery O'Connor, the subject of a new biography. "Had any other 20th century author so flirted with 19th century Gothic and still managed such a profoundly contemporary worldview?" he writes. "And yet here I was, seriously considering getting rid of her books." The trouble is her racial attitudes; his post is called The Bigots on My Bookshelf. In the end, James decides O'Connor's books can stay.

Stacey's Bookstore in San Francisco's financial district will close this month. It has made $4 million in sales annually, but revenues are declining and the owners have decided to close up shop. All the stock, save periodicals, is now on sale for half price.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo of Eric Kraft by Madeline Kraft