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Death, dinosaurs, Osama bin Laden in the spotlight

With the help of this semester’s Writing Communities class, The Signal is happy to introduce our Lit Corner, a column designed to expose readers to current authors, novels and all things literary.

Published in 2005

By Nick Elliot

In “Incendiary,” author Chris Cleave tells the story of a working-class woman whose husband and son have been killed in a fictional terrorist attack while attending a London soccer match. The novel is presented as a letter to Osama bin Laden from the now-childless and widowed woman and follows her throughout the year after the bombing. Alongside the narrator’s struggles to come to terms with the murder of her son and husband, as well as her attempts to overcome her loneliness, Cleave depicts a city living in fear after the attack. His portrayal of the seemingly simple-minded narrator is exquisite. She is at once deeply sad, confused, bitter, compassionate  and, most welcome to the reader, funny. She is a narrator pleading with a terrorist, trying to understand his world as much as her own. Readers will quickly be enveloped by the narrator’s achingly earnest desire to have her son back, to have the life she had before the stadium blew up.

Chris Cleave’s “Incendiary” takes the form of a woman’s letter to Osama bin Laden after the death of her family in a fictional bombing. (chriscleave.com)

Cleave’s portrayal of one woman’s attempt to put the pieces of her life back together and one city’s attempt to do the same is incredibly poignant in a post-9/11 world — even more so after the death of Osama bin Laden. “Incendiary” explores the ways people deal with loss and fear and the ways in which society works to move past the disruption of people’s lives. The author exposes the realization that the society you once knew is not now, nor has it ever been, quite as safe as you thought. In the end, however, he provides hope for a peaceful future.

“Incendiary,” which was reissued this year after the success of Cleave’s best-selling novel “Little Bee,” is a book that will stick with you long after it ends, as the fictional world Cleave creates reflects reality’s present.

“All My Friends Are Dead”
Published in 2010

By Chris Delaney

“All My Friends Are Dead” is a pseudo-children’s book written by Avery Monsen that explores friendship in a humorous, unconventional way. Whether it’s from a dinosaur who laments that all of his friends are dead, an old man who says most of his friends are dead (only to discover that they are now in fact all dead), or a baker who knows that all of his friends are bread, you will discover that friendship comes in many forms.

“All My Friends Are Dead” deals with the inevitable issues people have to face in life, such as loneliness and feelings of loss.

This isn’t your little brother’s children’s story: Avery Monsen’s book deals with the inevitability of death, whether you’re a dinosaur or person. (nomorefriends.net)

The children’s-book style of the illustrations contributes greatly to this book, adding plot to pages without written words. When combined with the dark themes of death and loneliness, it achieves the grimly hilarious tone that is the soul of the book.

“All My Friends Are Dead” is best read with friends. Whether it is on a quiet afternoon or during a crazy party, you are guaranteed to laugh out loud at every page. Because it is so short, it can be read in ten minutes. It is a book to be shared with everyone you know and anyone you meet.


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