Ever since her daughter rescued a fledgling rook, Esther Woolfson has been fascinated with corvids, the bird group that includes crows, rooks, magpies, and ravens. Today, the rook, named Chicken, is a member of the Woolfson family along with other winged creatures. From their elaborate bathing rituals to their springtime broodiness and tendency to cache food in the most unlikely places, these corvids each share a bond with Woolfson that would have been considered rare if not impossible before this collection of essays.
Letting her experience speak for itself, Woolfson takes into account the science of bird intelligence, evolution, song, and flight. It is through this intimate lens that Woolfson invites us to reconsider the kind of creature capable of being man's best friend.
Is literature about cyber-punk hackers set in the Argentine jungle your cup of tea? It sure wasn't mine until I started reading Dark Constellations and was hooked. Pola Oloixarac's mind-bending novel is a critique of tech and surveillance culture that explores the concepts of science, genius, and justice all while following an awkward hacker through his formative years. The prose style is undeniably addictive; lightning fast and written in the style of an automaton, this exhilarating translation by Roy Kesey is out of this world. This book is strange, sexy, and surprising.
Former tv writer turned LA therapist Lori Gottlieb wrote Maybe You Should Talk to Someone after a bad breakup led her own friends to suggest "Maybe you should talk to someone..." This book is about dealing with issues of life and death from both sides of the couch. Gottlieb's ability to entertain and elicit emotion kept me curious, amused, and reaching for the tissues.
Horror is usually an exploration of existence and inherited fears, and while Ling Ma’s novel engages this tradition, it achieves so much more. Through her dry wit, this zombie apocalypse is more a laughable condemnation of late capitalism and office bureaucracy than a keep-you-up-at-night scary story. At the end of the world, Ma holds a mirror to our trivial daily concerns to laugh with us, not at us.
Guided by Carol Sklenica's compelling and clear voice, we visit the key places, meet the crucial personalities, and overhear the domestic drama that informed and inflamed Raymond Carver's short fiction and short life. The exhaustive research and countless interviews that Sklenicka conducted for this book are what make is so superb and give it such rare authority.
I'd never read Diane Williams before encountering this book, which I now keep by my bedside and flip through like an oracle. Many of these profoundly strange stories, most of which average around a page, have the read-out-loud quality of poems. You often don't know exactly where you are in a Diane Williams story, or who's there, or sometimes even what's going on--but you're always confronted with a perplexing, irreverent, delicious sense of life, life that can't be caught and pinned to a page. For fans of Lydia Davis, John Ashbery, and Renata Adler.
While we are all stakeholders in the effects of global warming, discussions usually consider the needs of business investors and how policy affects their bottom line, while subsistence needs of the geographically vulnerable and impoverished populations are marginalized, if they are considered at all. As UN Special Envoy on climate change, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson is keenly aware that those who are bound to suffer the consequences of climate change most are not its major perpetrators. Robinson describes how marginalized stakeholders are finding ways to communicate their plight and direct policy, changing the focus of the issue to one of social justice. We need to concentrate our efforts now before we face a rush of emergencies. This discussion gives instruction and hope.
“This may be hard to believe, coming from a black man, but I’ve never stolen anything. Never cheated on my taxes or at cards. Never snuck into the movies or failed to give back the extra change to a drugstore cashier indifferent to the ways of mercantilism and minimum-wage expectations. I’ve never burgled a house. Held up a liquor store. Never boarded a crowded bus or subway car, sat in a seat reserved for the elderly, pulled out my gigantic penis and masturbated to satisfaction with a perverted, yet somehow crestfallen, look on my face. But here I am, in the cavernous chambers of the Supreme Court of the United States of America, my car illegally and somewhat ironically parked on Constitution Avenue, my hands that, much like this country, isn’t quite as comfortable as it looks.”
So begins a novel I began last night, a novel at which I’m still chuckling and at which I feel I may be chuckling out the week. Winner of this year’s New York Book Critic’s Circle award for Fiction. Political, poetic, imaginative, satirical, and funny on every page. Just available in pb from Picador at $16.00. You are so dumb if you don’t read this right away. I might forgive you, but God won’t.
In “My Darling Detective” Norman successfully blends several genres into an entertaining, warm-hearted whole. It is at once a family drama, cold case detective story and WWII historical fiction deftly bound together with just enough humor. The characters are charming and vivid and the setting (Halifax, 1977) is atmospheric.
Jessie Burton's debut novel tells the story of Nella Oortman, 18 years old, newly wed in an arranged marriage to an older wealthy merchant, as she arrives in Amsterdam to take up her wifely duties. But her husband, Johannes, is distant and often away from home, and his spinster sister, cold and pious, unwilling to cede her position as mistress of the house. When Johannes presents Nella a dollhouse-sized replica of their home as a wedding gift, she orders furnishings for it from a mysterious artist, who begins to send Nella items that she has not requested and which seem to be harbingers of things to come. Mysterious and suspenseful, readers may recognize echoes of Du Maurier's Rebecca, although I found the book captivating in its details of life in 17th century Holland: the wealth, the oppressiveness of religion, and society's expectations of women. Helpful hint: The prologue should really be an epilogue; ignore it and read it when you've finished.
In Deb Olin Unferth's debut novel, a man with a dented head named Meyers embarks on an impulsive quest, full of misadventures, through Central America in search of an old college acquaintance with a brain tumor named Gray, the man he blames for the disillusionment of his marriage. In the meantime, a young woman seeks out her biological father, a man who steals dolphins and releases them back to the wild. Unferth's writing is first-rate, strange, exciting, haunting and structurally imaginative. This book draws you in with its characters, and surprises you sentence after sentence. Worth checking out.
This novel takes place in the beautiful wilderness of Alaska in the 1920s. Jack and Mabel have built their home with grit and labor. They are determined to succeed. Things become very difficult and they feel almost defeated until a little girl with her red fox appear from the woods.
A fairy tale come to reality.
A rip-roaring romp through the “retro-future” city of Bohane, set in the West of Ireland in the 2050s. Scheming factions vie for control of the city as a ganglord’s reign comes to an end. Spurred on by machinating underlings and a fraught love triangle, rival gangs go to war in the streets, and the angina-stricken editor of the city’s only newspaper, the Bohane Vindicator, sends his hunchback photographer to snap shots for a photo spread. All of this unfolds in loud, lively language sprung from the voices of Limerick and Cork, where Barry grew up. A 90-year-old crime matron who has dreams about Yul Brynner, an ambitious young ganglady and local fashion icon (“white vinyl zip-ups tighter than sin”) whose star is on the rise, and a sacrifical goat paraded through town on the eve of a dissolute August Fair fill out the crazed Bohane atmosphere. Entertaining, lurid, and, to quote Barry, “perhaps most importantly, a comedy.”
“The Dark is Here” is a short collection of poems from the young poet, Kiki Petrosino, and is illustrated by Philip Miller. The pieces are sound-disciplined and driven by a layering of simple images that simultaneously make a face smile and heart ache. This beautiful little blue book is a must read.
Surreal, mesmerizing, and one of the most subtly terrifying books I've ever read. There is a character with a festering wound, but the real horror here is psychological: private things becoming public, a slow, painful shift in self-image. I couldn't stop turning the pages of this brilliant novel, except when I got so nervous I had to put it down for fear of passing out.
This story will stay with me for years to come. Theresa Weir has written a memoir of her life on an apple farm that reads like a thriller. It's beautifully written and haunting. Bravo to this author on being a new clear voice for the organic farming movement and perhaps saving future lives.