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Difference: Gander and Gerard

by Tyler Vitt - Tuesday, Feb 17, 2015 at 11:50am

"If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking."
-- Haruki Murakami


 

Forrest Gander’s latest novel, The Trace, is a haunting look at loss and loneliness and a meditation on the intersection (and collision) of different worlds. Dale and Hoa, a couple recovering from a traumatic incident involving their son, decide to travel into Mexico to investigate the three possible fates Ambrose Bierce might have faced when he disappeared in 1913 while covering the Mexican Revolution. The trip is an excuse to escape from the despair that dwells with them at home and an attempt to bridge the distance that has arisen between them. Their journey is threatened by a break down in the middle of the desert and the presence of a ruthless group of drug smuggling narcos. A spare, elegantly written novel interspersed with Gander’s award-winning poetry, the humanity in The Trace is raw and real.

Forrest Gander was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his 2011 poetry collection Core Samples for the World. Trained in both English literature and geology and born in the Mojave Desert, his sense of both the landscape of the desert and the interior landscapes of his characters is masterful.

In the word of Publishers Weekly: “As in his previous works, Gander shows he is keenly aware of the loneliness that imbues human suffering and sets grief alight using beautiful, tense, haunting prose.”

This piece written by our very own bookseller John Toews.


 

A binary star is a system containing two stars that orbit their common center of mass. Binary stars are gravitationally bound.

An unnamed narrator and her long-distance boyfriend embark on an aimless road trip across America in Sarah Gerard’s debut novel Binary Star. Both vow to leave their vices behind, her eating disorder and penchant for pills and his alcoholism, but those promises cannot be kept. In Portland they happen upon a book on vegananarchism and in it find their cause. She fixates on the stars, both celestial and celebrity, and as such astronomy provides the baseline allegory in this short novel; the couple as binary stars, the anorexic as a shrinking white dwarf burning unreplenished fuel. Binary Star is a portrait of lovers who cannot live together or apart.

This is a work that defies the boundaries between poetry and prose, between fiction and non- (the novel began life as a memoir). In a lyrical style that is both hypnotic and arresting, Gerard crafts a haunting story of consumption beyond control.

This novel burns bright. A truly stunning debut.

This piece written by our very own bookseller Devon Arthur.


This article originally appeared on page 10 of the January/February 2015 edition of our news magazine, The Bookseller. You can pick up a free copy of the magazine in our bookstores, or read it online here.

Categories: Staff Pick, Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Something Different

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See:

The Trace

- Hardcover

by Forrest Gander - $25.95 - Add to Cart

The Trace is a masterful, poetic novel about a journey through Mexico taken by a couple recovering from a world shattered.  Driving through the Chihuahua Desert, they retrace the route of nineteenth-century American writer Ambrose Bierce  (who disappeared during the Mexican Revolution) and  try to piece together their lives after a devastating incident involving their adolescent son. With tenderness and precision, Gander explores the intimacies of their relationship as they travel through Mexican towns, through picturesque canyons and desertcapes, on a journey through the the heart of the Mexican landscape. Taking a shortcut  through the brutally hot desert home, their car overheats miles from nowhere, the novel spinning out of control, with devastating consequences. . . . Poet Forrest Gander's first novel As a Friend was acclaimed as "profound and relentlessly beautiful (Rikki Ducornet). With The Trace, Gander has accomplished another brilliant work, containing unforgettable  poetic descriptions of Mexico and a story both violent and tender.

Binary Star

- Trade paperback

by Sarah Gerard - $23.50 - Add to Cart

The particular genius of Binary Star is that out of such grim material it constructs beauty. It's like a novel-shaped poem about addiction, codependence and the relentlessness of the everyday, a kind of elegy of emptiness." - New York Times Book Review "Rhythmic, hallucinatory, yet vivid as crystal. Gerard has channeled her trials and tribulations into a work of heightened reality, one that sings to the lonely gravity of the human body." - NPR "Sarah Gerard's debut, Binary Star, radiates beauty. Gerard captures the beauty and scientific irony of damaged relationships and ephemeral heavenly lights. Just as with the stars, it is collapse that offers the most illumination." - Los Angeles Times "Sarah Gerard's star is rising." - The Millions "With the grace of a poem and the attitude of a punk anthem, Binary Star is an unusual treasure. Sarah Gerard is a young writer on the rise. She has a voice you have to hear to believe." - Bustle "Gerard has produced a powerful, poetic, and widely relatable novel that eludes easy classification." - Publishers Weekly, Starred "Gerard writes fiction like poetry, constructing a mesmerizing, complex story of addiction, obsession and love." - Time Out New York "A glittering novel that tears into the headspace of a young anorexic in love with an alcoholic. Gerard's spare language and spacing is an intimate, cinematic poem." - The Brooklyn Rail "Gerard has an interesting fearlessness." - VICE "A bold, beautiful novel about wanting to disappear and almost succeeding. Sarah Gerard writes about love and loneliness in a new and brilliantly visceral way." -Jenny Offill "I felt a breathless intensity the whole time I read Sarah Gerard's brilliant Binary Star. I sped through it, dizzy,devastated, loving all of it." -Kate Zambreno The language of the stars is the language of the body. Like a star, the anorexic burns fuel that isn't replenished; she is held together by her own gravity. With luminous, lyrical prose, Binary Star is an impassioned account of a young woman struggling with anorexia and her long-distance, alcoholic boyfriend. On a road trip circumnavigating the United States, they stumble into a book on veganarchism, and believe they've found a direction. Binary Star is an intense, fast-moving saga of two young lovers and the culture that keeps them sick (or at least inundated with quick-fix solutions); a society that sells diet pills, sleeping pills, magazines that profile celebrities who lose weight or too much weight or put on weight, and books that pimp diet secrets or recipes for success. Sarah Gerard 's work has appeared in the New York Times, New York magazine's "The Cut," Paris Review Daily, Slice Magazine, the Los Angeles Review of Books, Bookforum, and other journals. She is the author of the chapbook Things I Told My Mother and a graduate of The New School's MFA program for fiction. "