This is a neurotic little novel that puts tons of little things that we see and experience on a day to day basis under the microscope. There's a lot of joy in this book, which I think is why I like it. It's a celebration of banal, unappreciated things like vending machines, hand dryers, milk cartons, paper bags, and saying 'oop!' when you accidentally go the same way as someone you're trying to get around. Though it is celebratory in tone for the most part, there is a tinge of melancholy throughout, as you realize how transient these small things are. The people of the future will never know or appreciate the slight convex curve of the metal buttons to a payphone.
I don't really read Sci-Fi, and this book was frequently recommended to me because of that; It's sort of an anti-sci-fi sci fi novel. The story takes place in a city where something catastrophic has happened--but no one knows what it was, even the people that were there when the catastrophe occurred. In the ruins of this metropolis a kind of anarchist utopia arises where people are allowed to be whoever they want. This suits the main character very well, as he doesn't really know who he is or why he has traveled to the city. In spite of that or because of it, he becomes something of a celebrity: the poet laureate of the city, and leader of a rough street gang called the Scorpions (think The Warriors). The pace of the book switches often from "action packed" to "hang out," and there's a huge cast of characters that effortlessly come to life on the page.
The star of the book, however, is the city of Bellona. The mystery of what happened there kept me turning the pages (there are about 800 of them) and the way that streets would change direction, fires would never be put out, and celestial bodies came crashing into the earth kept me enthralled.
There are a handful of Kafka stories that are indisputable classics, that are widely anthologized and assigned, and for good reason: they are some of the most inventive short stories of the 20th century. I'm talking about "The Metamorphosis," "In the Penal Colony," "A Country Doctor," "A Hunger Artist." These are all great, but Kafka wrote so much more. All of his short stories are collected here, all of them are just as profoundly odd as their famous cousins. I particularly adore the very short stories collected in the last hundred pages or so, as they seem to be the perfect medium for his unique sense of humor.
Last Days concerns a private investigator who finds himself entangled with a religious sect that practices self-amputation. (Enough said?) This is a rather hard-boiled novel of body horror that can be quite gruesome at times, and yet it's literary, funny, and compulsively readable too. I recommend absolutely anything written by Brian Evenson--if a book even has a blurb by him, I almost certainly pick it up. Last Days is a perfect introduction to his work.
Lydia Davis is known for writing very short stories, but I think she should actually be known for exploding the form of the short story. In these pages, a 'story' takes many forms: from a travelogue of a 19th century British merchant, to a jury selection interview, to an in depth study of letters sent by a fourth grade class to their ill peer. Some might compare her to Amy Hempel or Lorrie Moore; I compare her to Kafka. She has a prickly, wry wit, and she's my favorite writer still working today.
What is Bluets? A beautifully braided book-length lyric essay that captures the gem-like thoughts of the author as she attempts to write a book about the color blue. The effect is a kind of montage or collage of philosophy and personal pain. To attempt and pin this book down to a genre would be a mistake. Do yourself a favor and pick up this bona fide modern classic.
The premise of this short book is simple: it is now easier to imagine THE END OF THE WORLD than it is to imagine the end of capitalism. Fisher draws from heady theorists and popular culture to create this brief primer that brings this bleak period of our history into relief.
These stories are short, grim and often very funny. Bernhard is known for his breathless novels and plays full of morbid eccentrics
--this book acts as a brief introduction to his pitch black world view and macabre humor.
The main character of The Rings of Saturn wanders the English countryside in search of peace... only to find himself constantly
sucked back into the wreckage of the past. Sebald brings obscure corners of history to life, fictionalizing them only in the sense that he is writing it down. The mood is thoughtful and elegiac, the pace is slow--this is a book of thought. His sentences wind around the pages, and the photos embedded in the text are like flashes from last night's dream. My highest recommendation.
Agua Viva has Clarice Lispector taking photos of perfume: a couple hundred attempts at scratching beneath the skin of reality and the result
is like a slow motion shock down the spinal cord. Though this book is very short, I would encourage a reader to frequently pick it up
and put it down and sit with Clarice's crystalized wisdom. Recommended for artists of all mediums.
The book begins with 90-something vegetarian Marian Leatherby reconciling with the prospect of her family putting her in an old folks home. It ends with the world as we know it coming to an end, and a new fruitful world becoming possible. Carrington was a surreal painter and her novel reminds us that the written world is perhaps an even more malleable medium because its only limits are our imaginations.
This is a book of essays in which the poet Ross Gay searches for something that produces happiness. Sometimes, they are odd, like sleeping on the street. Sometimes as he sits to write his daily delight he finds that there is nothing delightful to write about. It is a book, then, searching for the gratitude of a given day, something which we can all learn from.
This long-reported book upends the narrative of the Manson family's infamous Tate-LaBianca murders that for many marked the end of the 60's feelings of groovy hippydom and heralded the 70's feelings of paranoia and ennui. Looking into the murders decades after they occurred, O'neill finds a bottomless pit of sinister possibilities, some of which implicate the CIA and the FBI. Put on your tinfoil hat.