Sometime within the next five to seven years, a section of Niagara Falls will go dry. This isn’t a case of the great western drought creeping east, but rather New York’s plan to, for lack of a better term, turn off the famed waterfall. The most astonishing part of the whole idea is that it’s not nearly as crazy, difficult, expensive, or novel as it may sound.
There’s an official, underwhelming word for the procedure: dewatering. And it’s been done before. The American Falls section of the continent’s greatest water feature was dammed for about five months in 1969 so engineers and researchers could study erosion of the bedrock. Horseshoe Falls, the much larger section that’s mostly in Canadian territory, wasn’t affected then, and won’t be this go-around, either. The blockage was billed as a once in a lifetime event, sparking a surge of tourists eager to gape at the novelty of the craggy, usually submerged floor and the 70-to-100-foot-tall stone cliff over which millions of gallons of water usually plummet every hour. Now, it’s happening again.
It was a couple of minutes before kick-off against Manchester United and the Bournemouth players had come together for their pre-match huddle. The same bubbly character always delivers the pep-talk – a few lines to get the adrenaline pumping – yet this time Harry Arter could tell his team-mates were wondering whether he would be able to get the words out. Only two days earlier his fiancee, Rachel, had given birth to their stillborn daughter.
Anyone who has been traumatized by Alfred Hitchcock’s “The Birds” — a high percentage of its viewers, I’d guess — may hesitate to read beyond the early pages of Abby Geni’s first novel, “The Lightkeepers.” The heroine, a photographer named Miranda, is leaving the island where she has spent the previous year, where the sea gulls now seem to be trying to make sure that no one gets out alive. “A gull slams against Miranda’s temple, knocking her off balance. . . . Wings thunder around her shoulders.” But readers who persevere beyond this unnerving beginning will find themselves carried along by a sturdy, rather old-fashioned thriller ramped up by some modern, ecologically themed plot twists.
Some novels delight their readers with an intricate and irresistible plot, in which pace and clues and the stumble of events offer an alluring puzzle. Others are wonderful at evoking a time, a place, an emotion. Still others are notable primarily for the way the author creates unforgettable characters — beings so real, so complex, so absorbing that you think about them long after you finish the book, and you cannot quite believe they will no longer be holding your attention, provoking that startled pang of understanding and fellow feeling.
This last feat, the unforgettable character, is the prime virtue of Roger Rosenblatt’s novel “Thomas Murphy,” for the aging poet who gives the book its name — whiskey-soaked; cheerful; mourning his late beloved wife, Oona; haunted by his bleak Irish childhood; best friends with his 4-year-old grandson, William — is the novel. He narrates it, he drives the ephemeral plot, he philosophizes and ruminates and remembers, he occasionally scrawls a poem. He is slowly losing his memory; he may soon be evicted from his vast rent-controlled New York City apartment; he is lured into another man’s whopping lie, which leads, perhaps, just maybe, to new love; and that, essentially, describes the entire arc of the narrative.
here is currently a thrilling, seemingly unstoppable tide of new Irish writing emerging through small literary magazines and presses, with authors such as Sara Baume, Colin Barrett and Mary Costello going on to achieve widespread critical success. Joining them this year will surely be Danielle McLaughlin, whose short stories are set in an Ireland both contemporary and disturbingly unfamiliar. Her near-faultless debut collection, originally published by Stinging Fly, deals primarily with psychological alienation, and the desolate upheaval of humans in crisis.
The bright bite of lemon juice; the earthy umami of an oil-roasted mushroom; the sour-sweet of dark chocolate—these are experiences that people across cultures and races and genders and generations can understand. They are relatively apolitical; they are relatively transcendent. Eating is biologically banal, but dining—the ritual, the event—is deep and social and shared.