Shining at the Bottom of the Sea

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9781594489419: Shining at the Bottom of the Sea

A virtuoso performance from an emerging new literary talent who crafts a vividly drawn history of an imaginary country.

In this stylistic tour de force, Stephen Marche creates the entire culture of a place called Sanjania-its national symbols, political movements, folk heroes, a group of writers dubbed "fictioneers," a national airline called Sanjair, and a rich literary history.

Sanjania is an island nation whose English-speaking citizens draw upon the English, American, Australian, and Canadian literary traditions. This brilliant story is an anthology, taking the reader from the rough and tumble pamphlets of 1870s Sanjania to the burgeoning Sanjanian nationalistic awareness in the 1930s literary journal, The Real Story, to the extraordinary longing of the writings of the Sanjanian Diaspora. These works develop into a Rashomon-like story, introducing us to illustrious Sanjanian figures such as the repentant prostitute Pigeon Blackhat and the magically talented couple Caesar and Endurance.

The result is a vibrant evocation of a country-from the birth pangs of its first settlers and their hardy vernacular to its revolutionary years and all the way to the present-all told in Stephen Marche's innovative and accomplished writing.

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About the Author:

Stephen Marche is a novelist and culture columnist. Marche received his Ph.D in Early Modern Drama in 2005 from the University of Toronto. He went on to teach Renaissance Drama at City College in New York. He is the author of two novels Shining at the Bottom of the Sea (2007) and Raymond and Hannah (2005), which was shortlisted for the Toronto Book Award in 2006. His recent non-fiction project, How Shakespeare Changed Everything (2011), uncovers the sometimes hidden influence of Shakespeare in modern culture. He currently writes A Thousand Words About Our Culture, a monthly column for Esquire magazine, which was a finalist for the 2011 American Society of Magazine Editors National Magazine Award for commentary. Marche also writes a weekly column for the National Post and has written about literature and politics for Salon.com, The New Republic, The Toronto Star, The Globe & Mail, Macleans, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and The Walrus. He lives in Toronto with his wife and two children.

From Publishers Weekly:

For this anthology of the literature of Sanjania, a fictitious North Atlantic island, Marche (Raymond and Hannah) creates a Sanjanian dialect and embeds it in an authentically alien atmosphere, as in the two stories that represent 19th century pamphlet literature, "The Destruction of Marlyebone, the Pirate King" and "Pigeon Blackhat." The stories have commonplace plots, but their twisted diction is brilliant: "In that time, no sailor on Sanjan Island did not know of the Beacham house and Pigeon Blackhat, I say it to my shame." As Sanjania goes through an independence movement and postcolonial dictatorship during the 20th century, the writing styles reflect international fashion, from the Hemingway-influenced "clean writing" movement of Blessed Shirley to the supposed magical realism of covetown life in, for instance, "A Wedding in Restitution" (later made into a festsival-sweeping film). In keeping with the academic anthology structure, Marche provides a preface, an index of author biographies and a selection of Sanjanian criticism—all straight-faced, and all perfect. Marche's concept is fascinating, but Sanjanian literature gets noticably worse the further one gets into the 20th century—perhaps Marche's sly comment on declining national hopes, Sanjanian and otherwise. (Aug.)
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Stephen Marche
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Published by Riverhead Hardcover (2007)
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