Valerie Martin

    Top Ten contributor Valerie Martin receives a warm review from Sylvia Brownrigg for her career-spanning collection of stories, Sea Lovers: Selected Stories, in the New York Times Book Review.

    Brownrigg writes: “Among the many potent themes that weave in and out of the stories in “Sea Lovers” — the stark realities of the artist’s path; the proximity of death to life; the complexities of the relationship between humans and animals — are a number of seemingly ordinary yet revelatory ­images. For Valerie Martin’s characters, something as simple as drinking a glass of water can yield a moment of reflection and clarity. …

    “Martin’s prose is lucid, and she avoids stylistic pyrotechnics. Her primary aim is to allow her characters their contradictory feelings, giving them room to breathe. When she mentions Chekhov in her introduction, the reference is illuminating rather than presumptuous: We see her empathizing with modest souls who have great feelings, displaying a Chekhovian knack for the deflating, ordinary detail.”

    Brownrigg continues: “Martin (the author of over a dozen works of fiction, including the well-regarded historical novels Mary Reilly and Property) has organized these 12 stories, most published in previous collections, into three sections. The first, “Among the Animals,” consists of tales that set human and animal frailties and ferocities in counterpoint. …

    “The first section is followed by “Among the Artists” and then “Metamorphoses,” a group of four tales featuring human-­creature interactions that hover in a territory somewhere between the surreal and the gothic. In a short introduction, Martin explains her choice of these categories and traces the arc she sees in her own career as she has moved, over the decades, from a spare severity to a fuller form. …

    “Martin’s complex and wonderful stories, with their careful rendering and sober insights, offer their own kind of relief for the reader: This book is a long, cool drink of water.”

    Valerie Martin’s Top Ten List

    1. Hamlet by William Shakespeare (1600).
    2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1857).
    3. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov (1955).
    4. The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki (1943–48).
    5. Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy (1899).
    6. The stories of Anton Chekhov (1860–1904).
    7. Persuasion by Jane Austen (1817).
    8. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James (1881).
    9. Disgrace by J. M. Coetzee (1999).
    10. Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett (1953).

    New List

    Pearl Cleage

    1. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967).
    2. A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams (1947).
    3. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937).
    4. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960).
    5. A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (1959).
    6. Gorilla, My Love by Toni Cade Bambara (1972)..
    7. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller (1934).
    8. Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen (1890).
    9. China Men by Maxine Hong Kingston (1980).
    10. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (1939).


    Classic List

    Edwidge Danticat

    1. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937).
    2. The Stranger by Albert Camus (1942).
    3. Germinal by Émile Zola (1884).
    4. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison (1952).
    5. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez (1967).
    6. Beloved by Toni Morrison (1987).
    7. Night by Elie Wiesel (1958).
    8. The Color Purple by Alice Walker (1982).
    9. The Trial by Franz Kafka (1925).
    10. Masters of the Dew by Jacques Roumain (1947).


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