These spare, sometimes lyric essays explore the legacy of race in America, artfully revealing in intimate detail how families, schools, and neighborhoods participate in preserving racial privilege. Faced with a disturbing past and an unsettling present, Biss still remains hopeful about the possibilities of American diversity, "not the sun-shininess of it, or the quota-making politics of it, but the real complexity of it."
France, the 1980s, first love. Celebrate Pride by picking up this novel written by French author, Philllipe Besson. This heartbreaking love story recounts the heady thrill and excruciating longing of first love between two young men at a time when gay and lesbian relationships were unacceptable in mainstream French society. The drama of teen love, burning romance and unresolved farewells is set alight by the translated prose of this novel, which is velvet, demure--both elegant and coy, rendered in English by Molly Ringwald (yes, that Molly Ringwald). Gorgeous. I read this book in one sitting, and was titillated, nostalgic, and moved to tears.
The protagonist of Intimacies is the daughter of bi-cultural parents, whose international upbringing left her with a facility for mastering languages and the ability to feel as at home in once city as another. The death of her father in New York City, where she also soon finds herself at the end of a job, inspires her to apply for (and she is accepted) the job of translating for the International Court in the Hague. There in the Netherlands she is new and yet not new- they had lived there for a time when she was a small child, but now she has no real connections to speak of, other than an acquaintance from when she worked in London. While at dinner at that friend's apartment, the evening is disturbed by the police responding to a mugging closeby, where a man is seriously injured. She gets back to her apartment without incident, but the event's occurrence disturbs her and she becomes obsessed with finding out more about the victim. She finds out more about him from her friend, from information in the news, from visiting his bookshop, and her curiousity grows. She is involved with a man who may or may not be completely available. At work, she becomes the translator for a war criminal- the former President of an unnamed country, whose words she must interpret and translate for the court, to have them, in turn, translated by someone else to the victims.
Intimacies has stayed with me. One of the things that the protagonist says of her work is that court translation takes a deep level of concentration and focus- that the job of the translator is to keep the gaps that exist between the words of one language and another as small as possible. The novel shows how gaps exist not only in the translation from one language to another, but between people sharing an experience, between criminal and victim, witness and witness. The book is that and a lot more. I read it in a single day, and emerged from it in awe.
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.
This up-to-the-minute tale is told by Lizzie, a grad school drop-out librarian, who seems very attuned to the climate crisis and impending doom. She is addicted to survivalist thinking, gathering “prep” facts”, words to the wise, and coping skills for the inevitable. Living in New York City with her husband and their young son, she is caretaker to her addict/recovering brother, and checks in on her aging mother. She also assists a travelling psychologist whose advice and analysis are in high demand in an insecure world. Stress builds to a climax with paper ballots… Offill’s vignette narrative style suits her character’s aphoristic needs and stewing, fragmented state of mind, and her humor and observations of this social moment are solid company.
“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.
While reading, I kept wanting to compare this book to some of my other favorites. To Howl's Moving Castle, except with a much more awesome Sophie and a deeper, more interesting relationship with Howl. To Sabriel, because of the magic-wielding girl protagonist and the uniqueness and clarity of the magic system. To The Hero and the Crown for its girl power and for its standing as a classic. Because I think this one will become a classic like that, a book that you read and then want to put into the hands of everyone you know who loves a wonderful, beautifully written fantasy featuring a wild, independent girl protagonist and a fascinatingly cranky "dragon". YA readers will love this, too, though be aware that there is some content that may make it better for 16+
What do you remember about Chernobyl? Not the true story, not the full story. Adam Higginbotham spent 10 years researching letters, documents, memoirs, and declassified Soviet archives. He also interviewed many men and women who witnessed the disaster and its aftermath first-hand. From this wealth of material he has created a compelling narrative of the events of April 26, 1986, the actions (heroic and otherwise) of people on the scene, in Kiev, and in Moscow, and the repercussions that followed over weeks, years and decades. Through Higginbotham’s skillful writing we come to know these people and to understand that no system designed by humans is truly fail-safe—and that we must consider not only the risk but the consequences of inevitable failure.
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.