THE SIZE OF THE WORLD by Joan Silber

More magazine’s June issue featured a book called The Size of the World, by Joan Silber, in a column titled, “Great Reads by Midlife Writers.” The description was: “Cleverly constructed from interwoven narratives, Silber’s novel explores themes of love and learning. Can an American feel at home in Thailand with his new wife? Will two Italian parents reconcile with the daughter they have disowned? Silber illuminates how we are bonded by our differences.”


The L.A. Times reviewed The Size of the World last week, and said:


SilberOne of the ways an author can really stretch and test the possibilities of fiction is by covering a great deal of ground — the wide world. Joan Silber has set out to do this. The Size of the Worldmoves from the United States to Vietnam to Thailand, back to the U.S., to Sicily and back to Thailand with dizzying fluidity. Silber weaves a web of characters that ties these places together. Picture the decisions they make in their lives — whom to marry, where to live, what to do for work — as the intersections of various threads. Each time a child is born, the radius of the web spins outward with new possibilities, new vectors, new decisions. Longing is the fuel, the energy that drives this growth: longing to be with the person you love, wherever that takes you; longing for a place; longing to do right; longing for redemption.

And here is a glowing review from The Written Nerd blog, who calls Silber one of most underrrated writers in America. From the review:


This is one of those books that stays with you like a sweet taste in the mouth, like a new idea you keep turning over to inspect its angles. The title’s allusion to our newly small, newly vast world is teased out through specifics: emails to Thai Muslims affecting an Italian in New Jersey because of the actions of Arabs in New York, and further back because of ties of family cemented in the last days of Fascist Italy, and a conscience discovered in an American engineering lab in Vietnam, and a legacy from the days of colonialist tin mining in Thailand. It’s mind-boggling, and as familiar as the shape of our own days.


Here’s the NYT Book Review on The Size of the World.


And here is a guest post by Joan Silber on The Millions blog about traveling abroad and reading books of local interest while there. She says:


While reading intensifies my sense of place, it also fuses with what’s seen – I can’t always remember what I learned from observing and what I read. (Perhaps I am like that about everything.) During my stay, reading gives me the beautiful sensation that I’m an adept in whatever’s going on around me, just as reading sub-titles in a movie can convince me I know the language.  I’m not above reading books by fellow foreigners, but I try to avoid those by travelers who only passed through (what do they know that I don’t?) in favor of writers who’ve spent real time in the place.

I’d never even heard of Joan Silber before I read these reviews – has anyone out there read this or anything else by her?


6 Comments

  • July 17, 2008 - 12:34 am | Permalink

    I haven’t read it, but I am really interested now!!!
    I love international stuff, I need to add that to my wishlist.

  • July 17, 2008 - 7:46 am | Permalink

    Hi Gayle- I just finish September of Shivaz. Just wanted to know when we would be posting.
    Have a great day…

  • July 17, 2008 - 11:58 am | Permalink

    I have a difficult time reading books that cover the whole world! But this one does sound good. Maybe it will change that for me.

  • July 18, 2008 - 10:10 am | Permalink

    I don’t recall reading anything else by her, but this certainly sounds fascinating!

  • July 20, 2008 - 5:02 pm | Permalink

    Susan – the online book club for “Septembers of Shiraz” will be here on Monday July 28th. See you then!

  • July 20, 2008 - 5:20 pm | Permalink

    I read the same article in More magazine and also found that title intriguing, but haven’t read it yet. I just discovered More, though, and love it! 🙂

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *