Ostensibly a guide for writers and readers, The Art of Death, much like the author’s prayer, feels like an offering, a study born of devotion. Part essay, part memoir, part elegy, the book has numerous obsessions — lingual, mortal, and parental — that come together to compelling effect. Danticat — who has published novels, short story collections, a memoir, a children’s book, and a volume of poetry — combines these forms fluidly, in a meditation as instructive as it is moving.
But more often, the stories feel sincere, human and moving. There’s no doubt that Strout is a fine and expressive line-by-line writer. There are some exquisite moments: during one particularly tense scene, a character looks at a rug he has recently bought and: “The rug seemed to holler at him, You are such a dope for buying me.” It’s a fine moment of humour and light in a dark, claustrophobic scene. But it’s also a moment that reveals sad volumes about the character’s insecurity and wry sense of self. There are dozens of other lines that seem similarly quiet and innocuous – until they burst in your head like star showers. Those alone make it worth making the long drive to this small town again … in spite of the occasionally disappointing scenery.
Was the writing of this book dependent on a similar creative friction? Did Stephen call the shots and have his son play apprentice? Or was this truly a joint effort; a collaboration between two writers blessed with the same DNA? It’s hard to tell – and this is surely for the best. But perhaps it’s no accident that this epic feels so vital and fresh. Sleeping Beauties comes fuelled by a youthful vigour that King Sr hasn’t shown us in years – probably not since 2008’s Duma Key. He appeared to have lost interest, dozed off, when maybe all he required was his son’s intervention. I like the image of Owen peeling back the cocoon, jolting his insensible father back into murderous bloody life.
CEOs don't typically write books about turning around their companies while they're still doing it. That's exactly what Nadella has done, and in page after page of Hit Refresh, he reflects deeply on the emotional and intellectual reasoning behind his hard choices.