If you have a taste for the surreal, a wry, dark sense of humor that might not be getting enough exercise, and a high tolerance for ambiguity, check out South Pasadena’s own Jim Krusoe. His latest novel, Parsifal, is as cagey and laugh-out-loud funny as his previous books. Cagey: What exactly does Parsifal’s scar look like, and why is he so devastatingly attractive to librarians? Funny: Parsifal’s reaction to suspiciously high-powered energy bars during his search for his former home in the forest. Krusoe’s considerable erudition (starting with the name of his questing hero) and concern with themes of alienation and redemption are leavened by his deadpan style and endless imagination. Like Krusoe’s other books, the world of this novel is a sideways version of reality; you can read it for metaphors or just enjoy its crazy internal logic. Parsifal, the ultimate unreliable narrator, tells his own story, enumerating the small things (carefully cataloguing the bewildering variety of objects raining down from the sky) while leaving the larger questions (just why do the sky and earth seem to be fighting in this world of forests, blind men, and stockbroker fathers?) unanswered, mysterious, and perhaps as unknowable to the reader as they are to the protagonist.
On Canaan’s Side
One of my favorite authors, John Barry, leaves his native Ireland for the mid-west of America in On Canaan’s Side. Thrilling, often incandescent language in the voice of a grieving grandmother, who’s an immigrant, equals Barry’s best prose, but I can’t say too much about the plot or themes without giving away the best, most shattering parts of the book. After finishing this slim volume full of plot twists and beautiful, wrenching scenes, you will meditate, as he seems to, on questions of identity, tribalism, loyalty, and community — whether in the New World or on the Auld Sod.