Sunday, September 23, 2007

Books Wormed: "The Architects Are Here" by Michael Winter

It's true what they say about critics; that in them burns a jealous fire and, frustrated by their own shortcomings, they tear down their more accomplished brethren to make themselves feel better. Consider, though, cause and effect.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at PhotobucketAs a writer I feel relatively accomplished, at least literarily. Clearly I know how to put a sentence together. I pride myself on spelling and punctuation (although I realize I am a little overly fond of the semi-colon). I do not believe in competition as an artist, but cooperation.

Yet reading Michael Winter puts me into a frenzy of envy, which is where I am when sitting down to write - what else? - this review. If only he wasn't so good, I wouldn't have to covet his talent.

When reading This All Happened I would sneeringly refer to it as What Just Happened; I still have to force myself not to call The Big Why by my own pet name, The Big What. I now have an addition to that list: The Adjectives Are Here. The reason for this, aside from my own snide nature? Jealousy.

Not only is he handsome, he's probably tall and lean and has one of those voices that could smoke bacon. All that PLUS he can write. His very existence makes me feel like an illiterate goblin. In fact, I may have to write a second review on the other side, at Self-Loathario, just to deal with it.

Winter's new tour-de-force novel The Architects Are Here fleshes out the trademark sparsity of his earlier works just enough to render his extraordinary voice the stuff of legends. The continuing story of his alter-ego Gabriel English, the novel is actually three books in one. The first part reads like a standard coming-of-age story, albeit more poetically rendered than the standard issue dreck typically churned out by BFA programs across the country. The second part is a combination picaresque/road-trip, again, re-invented with such flair as to be an entirely new genre as opposed to a retread of an existing one. The third is a coming home story mixed with elements of thriller, which ties the previous two portions together in an ending which should be too pat to be successful, yet is as satisfying as anything I've read this year.

On their own, each part would be an exemplary work, especially for those (like me) who enjoy the opportunity to luxuriate in some truly excellent diction. Although I don't always understand what motivates his characters (because I'm not deep enough), he clearly does (because he is). This is such a serious work, they really should never have sold it to anyone as frivolous as me.

Then again I am a rococo writer, whereas Michael Winter is a superlative minimalist. If his previous books were rooms, they would drive me to wallpaper. Walking into The Architects Are Here and looking around, I wouldn't change a thing.
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