Freddy and Fredericka by Mark Helprin
**** (4 stars out of 5)
Another thick book (600 pages), but more comical than suspenseful. I started reading this one aloud to Dana, before she started picking it up on her own to read the rest. The novel starts off seeming a satire of the modern monarchy in the U.K. The eponymous protagonists are fictional heirs to the British throne — one cannot help making comparisons to the current candidates — who make a series of blunders and gaffes which threaten the propriety of their ascendancy. As a result they are given a quest, outlined in an obscure clause of the protocols of their inauguration, to “colonise America” single-handedly, anonymously, and without the comfort or benefit of their station. According to Dana, the novel then becomes less a commentary about the United Kingdom and more a paean to America and its working class. Although Dana felt Helprin needed to tie up a few loose threads, she was overall impressed with the virtuosity of his writing. And, indeed, the novel is genuinely funny. An oddly patriotic salute to pick up after today’s celebrations.
The Tent by Margaret Atwood
I like reading short story collections because I can inevitably pick out a few selections that I could use one day in one of my classes. This one’s a little unusual in that it’s a collection of flash fiction. The author being Margaret Atwood, it’s well-written, vulnerable, and a little angry. Feminism gets its play here, but so does old age, the writing process, celebrity, and politics in general. I personally think the results are uneven, with some of the pieces a little too precious or surreal (a common pitfall with this genre). But hey, everything is in bite-sized pieces, like this blog, and I found a few of the selections quite clever, especially the ones that were a revisionist telling of well-known fables and tales.