Two Great Novelists
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Alix Ohlin is a Canadian writer who is visiting town this week, and will be at Skylight Books on Thursday. She published both her second novel and her second book of short stories, Signs and Wonders, on the same day this week, a rare thing and a measure of how strongly she is emerging as a major new voice in the world of literary fiction. The novel, Inside, has one of its final chapters set in Los Feliz and Silver Lake, but it ranges from New York to Toronto to scenes in the arctic and Africa.
Richard Ford, who is perhaps best known for his Frank Bascombe novels, which garnered major praise and major awards, including the Pulitzer, has a new novel titled Canada, although the character do not arrive there (from Montana) until the second half of the book.
Both Ohlin and Ford are not just compelling storytellers and stylists, they are also both interested in the way we tell stories – it is not at all necessary to the reading experience, but one can see both writers playing with, or perhaps, better, working with the way the novel has evolved. I first noticed Ford doing this in Independence Day, where very late in the novel we discover just how untrustworthy our narrator is; and it is handled so subtly and deftly that one hardly notices the entire reading experience shift. In Canada, Ford tells us an enormous amount in the opening pages – the narrator's parents are arrested for robbing a bank, go to jail, and die without meeting up with their children again – as if to say, 'I don't need the standard plot devices to keep you riveted,' and he does. Ohlin threads multiple story lines, multiple times, and multiple locales in, again, a thought-provoking way, asking us to think about what it means to get inside another person as we do in novels, and as we do in life.
Banner image: (L-R) Novelists Alix Ohlin and Richard Ford