Memory and Identity in Fiction

Sounds like a boring thesis topic, but fictional explorations into memory and identity are so much richer than those papers you wrote in English class.
Still Alice
(Pocket, 2009), a recent first novel by neuroscientist Lisa Genova, is a moving portrait of a Harvard cognitive psychology professor’s tragically fast descent into early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes was also a university professor’s first novel, but was published back in 1966. The diary of Charlie Gordon, a mentally handicapped young man who participates in a science experiment that rockets him to the other end of the intelligence spectrum, but only temporarily, is another moving investigation into the brain and self.
Then there’s The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana by Umberto Eco about an older man who wakes up in a hospital with amnesia and can’t remember his childhood, his wife, his children, his grandchildren, but retains an encyclopedic knowledge of facts up to a certain year. A wonderful audiobook narrated by George Guidall.

How much of your memory can you lose before you are no longer yourself? How much of identity is related to intelligence? There are a lot of neuroscience books out there where you may find some answers, but novels like these will lead you to ponder the questions.

Nine Dragons and the State of Crime Fiction

I’m on the library “holds” list for Nine Dragons, Michael Connelly’s latest book in the Harry Bosch series, but in the meantime — if I don’t run out and buy it over Thanksgiving weekend — I might check out one of the many other crime fiction authors recommended in The State of the Crime Novel, a recommendation-filled interview by author Jason Pinter with various book reviewers on, yes, The Huffington Post‘s Books blog.
Here’s how Oline Cogdill, mystery reviewer for The Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale and Publishers Weekly responded when asked: Who are three veteran crime writers you feel are still at the top of their game? Who are three writers flying under the radar you feel deserve to break out?:

Oline Cogdill: Michael Connelly is perhaps our most consistent living mystery author and his novels are about moments in our time, how the changing LA copes in the 21st century. Laura Lippman continues to amaze me with how she can so precisely tap into the issues of women. Laurie King’s Mary Russell novels would have been the kind I would have loved to have as a young teenager. I think they will be timeless. Val McDermid continues to be one of my favorites and I am looking forward to Dennis Lehane’s next novel, especially with the buzz I’ve been hearing. I also always look forward to novels by Peter Robinson and Ian Rankin and S.J. Rozan, Charles Todd. For breakouts: Michael Koryta is an amazing writer and so young. We’ll be hearing a lot more from him. I feel the same way about John Hart, that he will be a novelist with a long career. Linwood Barclay has been around for a while but his family thrillers put him in league with Harlan Coben and may finally put him over the top with American audiences. Some upcoming novelists I think you’ll be hearing about are Bryan Gruley (Starvation Lake), Attica Locke (Black Water Rising) and Paul Doiron (The Poacher’s Son comes out in April) These are major talents. I loved Harry Dolan’s Bad Things Happen and I want to see what he does next.

Thanks to Becky, a library book blogger at RA for All, for pointing this interview out. Subscribe to her blog for great reading advice.

Same Old Story – Best Books List Snubs Female Writers

>This blog post at Politics Weekly is a good addition to the flap in the blogosphere about the Publisher’s Weekly list of 10 Best Books of 2009 that didn’t include a single book by a woman. The people at PW said it just happened that way…they were as surprised as anyone!
The Women in Letters and Literary Arts have started a wiki where excellent 2009 books by female authors are being listed. You might want to check out some of the suggested titles there, as well as the books on the Publisher’s Weekly list.

Suggestions from a Massachusetts Librarian

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