“News of the World” is a charming, often moving picaresque Western, with an echo of “True Grit,” but with an authentic plot twist. A 70-year-old retired army captain, Jefferson Kidd, makes his living in the 1870s traveling from town to town in North Texas, reading aloud from newspapers to audiences hungry for news of the world, who pay a dime apiece to hear him. Along the way, he is offered money to return a white girl to her nearest kin. She was captured ten years ago, at age 6, by Kiowa who murdered her parents. She knows no English and eats with her hands. She wants to return to the Kiowa way of life. The story of their long journey, the landscape vividly described and their evolving relationship, along with the adventures encountered, is a wonderful read, beautifully written, and all in just 224 pages! Finalist for National Book Award 2016.
Posted: 10/20/16 by Nicole Charbonnet
Although Alexis de Tocqueville made some amazingly perceptive and prescient observations, I consider his predictions regarding American literature to be completely lame (despite the the Nobel Prize committee’s prejudiced adherence to them for the last few decades). De Tocqueville predicted, “Authors will aim at rapidity of execution, more than at perfection of detail… there will be more wit than erudition, more imagination than profundity.” An easy, objective way to contradict him and taking the pulse of the American Novel is by looking at National Book Award nominees for 2016. The recently announced finalists are: “The Throwback Special” by Chris Bachelder, “News of the World” by Paulette Jiles, “The Association of Small Bombs” by Karan Mahajan, “The Underground Railroad” by Colson Whitehead and “Another Brooklyn” by Jacqueline Woodson. Despite the fact that my list of finalists would have been different (because my long list would have included “Nicotine,” “Here I Am,” “Commonwealth,“ “Heroes of the Frontier, “the Nix,” “Innocents and Others” and “Zero K”), these are all really wonderful novels. Although I can recommend them all for different reasons, my personal finalists of the official finalists are “News of the World” and “Another Brooklyn.”
Although the post-Civil War Texas setting and adventure story plot made me resist Jiles’ novel, I quickly got mesmerized by the beautiful writing and the wonderful story of an old man and orphan girl. It’s a huge compliment to say Jiles’ form and content are both redolent of Cormac McCarthy.