Originally published on Thu September 20, 2012 10:09 am
Ursula Le Guin comes immediately to mind when you turn the pages of Kij Johnson's first book of short stories, her debut collection is that impressive. The title piece has that wonderful power we hope for in all fiction we read, the surprising imaginative leap that takes us to recognize the marvelous in the everyday.
San Miguel is the name of a treeless island off the coast of California where, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, a few nervy ranchers struggled to raise sheep. San Miguel is also the name of T. Coraghessan Boyle's chilling and beautiful new novel, which is loosely based on the memoirs of those ranchers.
There are essentially two things that can happen with a knuckleball. It can float toward the plate without spin, jerk around like boozy relatives at a wedding hall and make the world's best hitters look like hapless Looney Tunes characters. Or it can float toward the plate with spin, lope with a steady trajectory at 65 mph and give the world's best hitters the juiciest slab of red meat this side of Sizzler.