What is Todd Robins reading?
When Todd started at Watermark Books & Cafe, Hicks's walk in Robert Stone's novel, Dog Soldiers, was arguably his all-time favorite literary passage. That is still the case. Raymond Carver's short stories ranked near the top as well. Raymond Chandler, George V. Higgins and Elmore Leonard (Unknown Man No. 89) were in the mix. Yet, books kept landing on the Watermark shelving cart. Let's just say The Epicure's Lament by Kate Christensen was nicely done. William Kennedy's Roscoe; Allegra Goodman's Intuition. Philip Kerr's Gunther series is a treasure. Finally, histories. Stacy Schiff's Cleopatra stands out.
Happiness is securing a copy of Kate Christensen's forthcoming novel, The Last Cruise. I won't claim to be psychic. But I had a strong hunch, when I saw the jacket copy alongside what I already know about Christensen's talent, that here was a literary enterprise of the first order. There is not a dull line in this book. It has been a long time since I laughed so much when reading a novel. The comic timing is wicked.
Scenario: Christine Thorne, erstwhile journalist who opted for an easier life with a farmer husband in Maine, agrees to go on a 1950s style cruise with her ambitious friend Valerie. Christine is at that point in her life when she's thinking perhaps she's missed out, and the cruise might serve as her awakening. While on the ship, she meets with Miriam, a wise violinist with a biting sense of humor in her own right, and Mick Szabo, a chef who, in his raucously hilarious interior monologues, constructs the sort of skewed logic that you have to reread to believe. Imagine fully developed, luxurious scenes in which the main characters hope for something better in life and wonder if change might be possible.