Who is Daniel Torday? And why is everyone heaping praise on his debut novel?
I don’t know, but I intend to find out.
How could I not be intrigued after reading a 2-paragraph review in Esquire with the headline “The Best 149 Words Published This Year”?
Chris Jones, one of the magazine’s fabulous writers, declares:
“The last sentence of Daniel Torday’s debut novel, “The Last Flight of Poxl West,” is one of the great conclusions. Like the novel it completes, it is an elaborate and careful construction. It contains 149 words, 14 commas, 4 apostrophes, 2 em dashes and, finally, a period.”
(OK, I’m interested.)
“Every last one of those punctuation marks has been earned. Torday has written a novel that does more than just build toward its final page.”
(Yes?. Tell me more.)
“After unwinding a narrative that alternates between the unbelievable wartime memoir of Poxl West, a daring Jewish pilot, and his admiring nephew’s reckoning with it, Torday gives his dual protagonists the ending they deserve. It’s not a clean one, or a complete one, or an impossible one. It’s a real one, equal parts inevitable and explosive, the last of the countess bombs Poxl West drops out of the sky.”
(OK. That does it. I’m sold.)
Well, after an endorsement like that, I looked up Torday, where snippets from NPR’s Terry Gross and others only serve to reinforce my interest in this book. The author’s website says he is a former editor at Esquire, an editor at The Kenyon Review, and Director of Creative Writing at Bryn Mawr College.
(Only one thing left to do. Add “Poxl West” to my list of must-reads.)
Photograph: Matt Barrick