28 January 2015

Mini Book Review: Aquarium by David Vann

So, remember those cupcakes I mentioned earlier this week, vis a vis the superiority of some mini-things over their regular-sized versions?

Readers, I now give you pygmy goats, in case you weren't convinced of the beauty of the abbreviated:

Leapgoat is the new leapfrog.
Image found here.
Now that I've established beyond a shadow of a doubt the superlative status of small things, here's another mini book review for you.

David Vann's newest novel, Aquarium, is a work of beauty, albeit a complicated one, on multiple levels.  Caitlin narrates her own coming of age story from the vantage point of adulthood, lending it a certain Scout-from-To Kill a Mockingbird feel. All Caitlin's life, it's been just her and her mom, so when an older man befriends twelve-year-old Caitlin at the local aquarium, it sets in motion a peculiar and horrifying sequence of events.

Besides her mom, Caitlin's main source of security is the aquatic environment she surrounds herself with each day after school.  Studying fish behavior and their habitats provides both comfort and structure, and she applies the lessons of ichthyology to her own life to better understand other people. The pages of the book are interspersed with photographs of different kinds of fish, lending a physical beauty to the book not often encountered these days in fiction.

David Vann is an author much more widely read in Europe than in his own country, and I'm not entirely sure why. This book ventures into emotional territory that is dark enough to please readers of Cormac McCarthy and is luridly bizarre enough to entice those readers seeking something out of the ordinary in their novels.

Aquarium will be published by Atlantic Monthly in early March, and I read an advance reading copy provided to me at my request by the publisher. This book also qualifies for a spot on my diversify-your-life shelf because at least one main character is LGBT.  It's also printed in two colors throughout (text in black, with running heads, title, and the initial letter at the open of every chapter in aqua), with, as I mentioned above, the full-color fish reproductions dotting the text.  Here are some photos:



10 comments:

  1. I love mini reviews! I plan on writing one at the end of the month of all the books I didn't get around to reviewing for January.

    You got me immediately at "peculiar and horrifying" - my morbid curiosity (and many of your reviews) lead me to read some of the most interesting books ever! Plus, it's a book. With pictures! Yesssss.

    I am so jealous that you get to read advance copies - I'll have to wait like every other book-peasant then, hahaha

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    1. mini reviews somehow seem much easier to write, even if I end up getting chatty and writing as much as I would a regular review. It's all in tricking myself into thinking it's less work, you see. ;)

      Peculiar and horrifying was the phrase I decided to use in order to avoid spoilers, because when older men start talking to little girls and you know something bad is going to happen, your mind immediately goes in one particular direction. But the horrifying part here is more peculiar than that. So, sorry if that was a spoiler!

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  2. I love the idea of having the photos in the book! But the subject sounds a bit darker than I tend to gravitate towards, these days. :)

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    1. Yeah, it's not exactly a typical Anguilla beach read!

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  3. Oh, this book sounds so interesting. I love the photos. I wonder if, within publishing, there are people who are saying, hmm, what can we do to entice people to buy real books? Yes, you can get the photos in an ebook, but it's not the same. I look at all the gorgeous editions of classics that Penguin puts out (or their fabulous horror series that Guillermo del Toro handled the design for), or books like JJ Abrams' S, with all its moving pieces and parts that would definitely not work in an ebook format. I like ebooks, but I still prefer a real book.

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    1. There are definitely people in publishing who are asking that exact question: what kind of value-added thing can we do for the physical book?

      And yes, I couldn't agree more. I don't mind reading e-books but I still prefer a real book.

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  4. I mean....you've definitely interested me. Imma peer at this book for a while.

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    1. Peculiar and horrifying. Yes, with lots of pretty pictures. This *totally* has your name all over it!

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  5. Horrifying sequence of events? But you like it? I am intrigued by that. What sort of horrifying? Or would that require spoilers?

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    1. Umm, yeah, it would be a little spoilery...but I will say that it's not the usual kind of horrifying that happens when an old man tries to befriend an adolescent girl.

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Please, sir, may I have some more? (Comments, that is!)