Tuesday, March 30, 2010

One Hell(enga) of a Writer

Just pausing in my reading here to mention how much I am enjoying this book called The Fall of a Sparrow.
The author is Robert Hellenga, from the boonies of rural Illinois. You know, there are great writers hiding out all over the place, you've just got to ferret them out.
The Fall of a Sparrow is about an English professor who loses his college-age daughter in a terrorist attack in Bologna, Italy. Only a third of the way in -- but I am enthralled with the way Hellenga is painting such a realistic canvas, showing us how a deeply intellectual academic individual might go about re-ordering his life after such a horrific event.
In an interview, the author spoke of his admiration of Tolstoy.
When asked, "What works of art and what other writers have inspired you and shaped your journey as a novelist?" he answered:
My favorite novel is Tolstoy's Anna Karenina. I always have a copy nearby. I especially like the forward momentum of the novel. There's an urgency in the narrative voice, something that says this story is so important that I don't need to fool around with narrative tricks or verbal fireworks. Let me just set things down as clearly as possible.

This is what he is doing here in The Fall of a Sparrow.
Setting things down as clearly as possible.
It's the kind of writing I myself admire the most.
Check him out --


Stefanie said...

Okay, I'm convinced. This is going on my TBR list. I've been eyeing anyway and waiting to hear from someone I trust that it's a good one. So thanks!

Anonymous said...

I second cipriano's view.
I have read Hellenga's Sixteen Pleasures, and although reviews call it his major work, I think I like this one better.

If you enjoy literary allusions -to Greek and Roman myths as well as other classics - you will especially enjoy this one. I find the allusions not at all intrusive - as they can be in a writer who is just being pedantic.

The references to blues and jazz and music and art in general are nicely intertwined as well.

A dual narrative stance divides the book's presentation of plot; it seems to add emphasis to the theme of the importance of "storytelling" itself as a thing that shapes our lives.

I don't have cip's expertise in reading and reviewing what he reads, but for what it's worth, I too, highly recommend this book.