Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Trailer Park Tuesday: The Great Glass Sea by Josh Weil

Welcome to Trailer Park Tuesday, a showcase of new book trailers and, in a few cases, previews of book-related movies.

I am an unabashed fan of Josh Weil's first book, The New Valley, a collection of three novellas.  As I said in this review, “the writing is tight, complex and wholly original.  Symbolism marries Syntax and they have beautiful children.”  The New Valley came out from Grove (my publisher) in 2009 and I waited impatiently, through the radio silence and the cricket chirps, for Josh to bring out another book.  Through the Weil-less years, I would return every so often to The New Valley, open it at random and read a few paragraphs to console myself that when the time finally came for his next book, I would not be disappointed.  Ladies and gentlemen, that day is now upon us and, after reading the first few pages of his debut novel, The Great Glass Sea, I can tell you that Josh Weil does not disappoint.  One sip from its opening paragraphs will tell you that we're in for a real treat in this “epic tragedy of brotherly love...swathed in all the magic of Russian folklore and set against the dystopian backdrop of an all-too-real alternate present.”
      Always the island had been out there, so far out over so much choppy water, far beyond the last gray wave, the groaning ice when there was ice, the fog when there was fog, so distant in the middle of such a huge lake that, for their first nine years, Nizhi—that church made of its tens of thousands of wooden pegs, each one as small as a little boy’s finger bones; those woodshingled domes like tops upended to spin their points on the floor of the sky; the priests’ black robes snapping in the wind, their beards blowing with the clouds, their droning ceaseless as the shore-slap waves—all might have been just another fairy tale that Dyadya Avya told.
      And then one day when the lake ice had broken and geese had come again, two brothers, twins, stole a little boat and rowed together out towards Nizhi...
      “Into the lake,” Dima said.
      “To hunt the Chudo-Yudo,” Yarik said.
      “Until they found it.”
      “And killed it.”
      They were ten years old—Dimitryi Levovich Zhuvov and Yaroslav Levovich Zhuvov—and they had never been this far out in the lake, this lost, this on their own. Around them the water was wide as a second sky, darkening beneath the one above, the rowboat a moonsliver winking on the waves. In it, they sat side by side, hands buried in the pockets of their coats, leaning slightly into each other with each sway of the skiff.

      “Or maybe it came up,” Dima said, “and crushed the boat.”
      “And they drowned,” Yarik said.
      “Or,” Dima said, “it ate them.”
      They grinned, the same grin at the same time, as if one’s cheeks tugged the other’s lips.
      “Or,” Yarik started.
      And Dima finished, “They died.”
      They went quiet.
      The low slap of lakewater knocking the metal hull. The small sharp calls of jaegers: black specs swirling against a frostbitten sky. But no wood blades clacking at the rowboat’s side. No worn handles creaking in the locks. Hours ago, they had lost the oars.
      They were losing last light now. Their boat had drifted so far into Lake Otseva’s center that they could no longer make out the shore. But there was the island. All their lives it had been somewhere beyond the edge of sight, and now they watched it: far gray glimpse growing darker, as if the roots of its unknown woods were drawing night up from the earth.
In the trailer for the book, Weil explains the genesis for the novel, which began with his upbringing (his mother's family is from Russia) when he grew up dancing folk dances and studying the Russian language (starting in seventh grade!).  He says he's always been interested in fables, folk tales and magic realism and the way that those elements can “open up a story and add different layers.”  Driving the novel forward is a “deeply felt” love story between two brothers--a reflection of Weil's relationship with his own brother.  I hope you'll join me in making The Great Glass Sea one of the must-reads of this year.  And if you're lucky enough to live near one of the cities Josh will be visiting on his book tour, please be sure to stop in and give a listen to what he has to say.

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