February 19, 2013

Any Day Now

ANY DAY NOW is a novel by Terry Bisson, who will be one of the honored guests at next month's FOGcon.

At its core, this is a coming-of-age story about living in a particular time and a particular subculture. Clay grows up in 1950s Kentucky and develops an interest in the beat poets. After a short attempt at college, he moves to New York City, where he briefly encounters Allen Ginsberg and Andy Warhol. He does a bit of demonstrating against the Vietnam War, but it's Clay's friends who are more immersed in the various youth movements of the 1960s. Eventually Clay winds up living in a hippie commune in the southwest. The political events and cultural changes of this tumultuous period of U.S. history unfold in the background of the story, occasionally coming to the front as they impact Clay's life and friendships.

The writing style in this novel appealed to me. It's straightforward, with simple sentences and lots of dialogue. Some might imagine this indicates a lack of sophistication, but they would be mistaken. Bisson has masterfully crafted every paragraph.

There's another major thing to mention about ANY DAY NOW, but I've been avoiding it so far because I think it's better to encounter it unexpectedly. If what I've said already is enough to interest you in this novel, then stop reading this review and go pick up the book. If you're not convinced yet and are willing to forgo the surprise, then keep going.

Everything I've described so far is accurate, and for about the first third of the book, it really is just a story of a young man's life. The occasional references to current events are exactly what you'd expect from anything set during this time, especially once Clay and his friends start becoming politically active. The big spoiler is that the current events in the story start to become disconnected from history as we know it. This may have started with more subtlety than I had the knowledge to notice, but it soon becomes clear to any reader that Clay's world is taking a different historical path than our own. It's fascinating to see what happens as a result of the changes. It's also fascinating that even as this novel evolves into a different genre than it started as, it remains primarily a personal story about the life of one young man.

Good Stuff Out There:

→ Chuck Wendig covers 25 Things You Should Know About Narrative Point-Of-View: "How intimate is the reader with the story, the setting, the characters? Once we begin to explode out the multiple modes of POV (objective, subjective, omniscient, etc.) it relates to how intimate the reader gets to be -- is she kept close but privy to the confidence of only one character? Is the reader allowed to be all up in the satiny guts of every character in the room?" (Thanks, Book Riot!)


laurenhat said...

I was just going to rec the Wendig piece to you -- glad to see you've already found it!

I am not that excited about ANY DAY NOW based on the first things you said (not that it doesn't sound good, but it doesn't sound very me) -- but I can't decide whether or not to read the spoilery bit of your review and see if it pulls me in more. Ah, dilemmas. :) If you think I should read it (the book, not the spoilery bit), I'll probably give it a try at some point.

Lisa Eckstein said...

I would say you could safely read the rest of my review to see if it interests you more, but this book may not be your sort of thing.

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