A.S. Byatt has been quite fortunate in generating a large, best-selling audience for works of such complexity and based on such literary scholarship. Meanwhile, another writer in the same genre and with perhaps equal skill has passed unnoticed (as so many fine writers do).
The Notebooks of Lana Skimnest by Anselm Atkins is a novel presented as a critical commentary on the notebooks of a present-day naturalist (an expert in birds, butterflies, etc., and an amateur poet), together with a subjective, quirky biographical account of that naturalist's bizarre life. Like Byatt's work, this book calls to mind Borges, Saramago, Nabokov (as lepidopterist, as author of Pnin, and as commentator of Pushkin's Onegin), and Douglas Hofstadter (whose monumental Godel, Escher, Bach is alluded to as if the author of this novel had actually written that work under a pseudonym). You also find here playful, totally bizarre plot elements relating to a mad monk who is obsessed with Lana. Those elements help tie the story together with a touch of global paranoia that persists in the narrator's mind through numerous delightful and informative digressions, reminiscent of the styles of both Nabokov and Tom Robbins.
The book was published nine years ago by Roberta Kalechofsky's Micah
Publications, and is still available from them at www.micahbooks.com
through Amazon The
Notebooks of Lana Skimnest, despite the fact that only a dozen copies
have sold in all that time. According to Roberta, "The author, Anselm Atkins
was an ex-Trappist monk and knew whereof he wrote. He made his living
by designing stained glass windows and was quite talented in a variety
of ways. He died last year of pancreatic cancer." This is a rare
treat: buy it and enjoy it. And also check the other fine books published
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