It's not often that a novel leaves me (temporarily) speechless. But Ann Patchett's new novel isn't called State of Wonder for nothing, because that's exactly the state I've been in ever since I first opened it. The numbness has worn off by now, but for days, all I could say to friends who asked me about it was the one-word review: "Wow."
Publishers like to throw around the term "speculative fiction," but you won't see too many fans of the genres it comprises — fantasy and science-fiction — bandying it about. For one thing, it's redundant; all fiction speculates, or it isn't fiction. More importantly, true fans of science fiction or fantasy don't feel a particular need to justify that love, much less dress it up in more "respectable" language. It's a mug's game, after all: Those readers who reflexively turn up their noses at genre fiction will continue to do so, no matter what name it goes by.
On Aug. 6, 1988, a collection of squatters, anarchists and youth took over Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan's East Village to protest a new 1 a.m. curfew. By the time the fated hour rolled around, the gathering had turned violent, as police attempted to shut down the park. The crowd was there to protect a neighborhood where, as Eleanor Henderson puts it in Ten Thousand Saints, "there were shadows to hide in. Here you didn't advertise being gay or straight or rich or poor; you just tried not to get your ass kicked." Injuries and reports of police brutality abounded.
There was a 0.2 percent drop in retail sales in May from April, the Census Bureau just reported. Driving the decline: A 2.9 percent drop in motor vehicle sales. Car sales were hurt by a disruption in supply among Japanese manufacturers following that country's devastating earthquake and tsunami in March.
According to The Associated Press, the overall decrease is "the first decline after 10 straight increases."