Good morning. WordPress is telling me that this is my hundredth post on paulstoutonghi.com. This seems fabulous, to me, and it means I’ve been averaging about one post every 8 or 9 days. That seems like a good amount — especially over a two-and-a-half year period.
Blogging is interesting because it’s a public journal. It’s not quite internal, emotional diary writing — at least not for me — but it’s close.
That said: Josh Weil’s The New Valley.
The New Valley got a fabulous review in the New York Times. I’m not going to break new ground in book reviewing, here, in this informal venue. Much of what Anthony Doerr (another excellent writer whose book The Shell Collector is one of my favorites) writes makes sense to me. The novella is indeed perilous territory, territory between the novel and the short story. And, yes, Weil is the real deal. He negotiates this perilous territory with skill and grace.
These three novellas are set in a river valley that’s a borderland — situated between rural Virginia and West Virginia. This is a rough country, and the landscape here is presented with much of its rawness intact. Indeed, the land haunts these novellas.
I liked all of them, but of the three, “Saverville Remains,” was particularly beautiful. It had the kind of prose — in the voice of its narrator — that astonishes you with its economy and power. I’m at the back of a long line of reviewers praising Weil, sure, but it’s a line I’ll gladly stand in.