In John Irving’s twelfth novel, Last Night at Twisted River, a father and son carry a misspelled Italian surname – Baciagalupo. Literally, the name means "kiss of the wolf," from "bacio" (kiss) and "lupo" (wolf). This name is repeated over and over in the novel, and is finally used for the name of a restaurant. I thought John Irving had just made the name up entirely, but then I came across “Bacigalupi" as the author of the 2009 science fiction novel, The WindUp Girl, which was just added to the Library’s list of Best Recent Science Fiction and Fantasy. It was a fun moment, when two random experiences intersected.
Anyway, here are reviews of these two books:
Last Night at Twisted River
Dominic Baciagalupo, a cook for a logging community, and his son Daniel are co-protagonists in a story about manhood, family, love, friendship, and a lot of Italian cooking. The novel moves slowly back and forth in time. At times, it may move a bit too slow with all the detail, but Irving is a master at connecting the details and characters to create a book with a deep message. The first section of the book is set in the 1950s in the far north of New Hampshire. In the last half of the book the son, now grown-up and an author, struggles with the tragedies of his life - both accidental and avoidable - and with writing novels, striking a balance between the autobiographical and the imagined.
The Windup Girl
Paola Bacigalupi has been compared to William Gibson, Neal Stephenson, and China Miéville. In this near future thriller, calories are the greatest commodity, and corporations control the world’s seed stock. Bacigalupi has created a compelling, if bleak, society in which corruption, betrayal, and despair are commonplace, and more positive behavior and emotions such as hope and love are regarded with great suspicion. The windup girl of the title is a "New Person," a genetically modified girl brewed up from scratch by the Japanese as a toy. But her DNA is not so compromised that she doesn't still yearn to be human. The complex plot revolving around her, a future Thai kingdom, and many other complex characters require a great deal of commitment from readers.
Tomorrow is the last day of National Library week, so visit your neighborhood branch or come to Faulk Central for the New Fiction Confab.