What We’re Reading: July 2019

We editors love reading at HFR—and talking books, writing, and publishing around the clock—so we decided to catalog our selections every month as the new feature “What We’re Reading.” Following are our recommendations for the month.

 

Novels

No Good Very Bad Asian
Leland Cheuk

“Meet Sirius Lee, a fictive famous Chinese American comedian. He’s a no good, very bad Asian. He’s not good at math (or any other subject, really). He has no interest in finding a ‘good Chinese girlfriend.’ And he refuses to put any effort into becoming the CEO/Lawyer/Doctor his parents so desperately want him to be. All he wants to do is making people laugh. No Good Very Bad Asian follows Sirius from his poor upbringing in the immigrant enclaves of Los Angeles to the loftiest heights of stardom as he struggles with substance abuse and persistent racism despite his fame. Ultimately, when he becomes a father himself, he must come to terms with who he is, where he came from, and the legacy he’ll leave behind.”

 

Wolf in White Van
By John Darnielle

“Isolated by a disfiguring injury since the age of seventeen, Sean Phillips crafts imaginary worlds for strangers to explore. As the creator of Trace Italian—a text-based role-playing game that’s played through the mail—Sean guides subscribers through his intricately imagined terrain, turn by turn, as they search out sanctuary in a ravaged, savage future America. But when Lance and Carrie, two teenaged seekers of the Trace, take their play outside the game, disaster strikes, and Sean is called on to account for it. In the process, he is pulled back through time, toward the beginning and the climax: the moment of his own self-inflicted departure from the world in which most people live.”

 

The Book of X
By Sarah Rose Etter

The Book of X tells the tale of Cassie, a girl born with her stomach twisted in the shape of a knot. From childhood with her parents on the family meat farm, to a desk job in the city, to finally experiencing love, she grapples with her body, men, and society, all the while imagining a softer world than the one she is in. Twining the drama of the everyday―school-age crushes, paying bills, the sickness of parents―with the surreal―rivers of thighs, men for sale, and fields of throats―Cassie’s realities alternate to create a blurred, fantastic world of haunting beauty.”

 

Neverwhere
By Neil Gaiman

“Richard Mayhew is a young London businessman with a good heart whose life is changed forever when he stops to help a bleeding girl—an act of kindness that plunges him into a world he never dreamed existed. Slipping through the cracks of reality, Richard lands in Neverwhere—a London of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels that exists entirely in a subterranean labyrinth. Neverwhere is home to Door, the mysterious girl Richard helped in the London Above. Here in Neverwhere, Door is a powerful noblewoman who has vowed to find the evil agent of her family’s slaughter and thwart the destruction of this strange underworld kingdom. If Richard is ever to return to his former life and home, he must join Lady Door’s quest to save her world—and may well die trying.”

 

The Girl Next Door
By Jack Ketchum

“The first authentically shocking American film I’ve seen since Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer over 20 years ago. If you are easily disturbed, you should not watch this movie (or read the book). If, on the other hand, you are prepared for a long look into hell, suburban style, The Girl Next Door will not disappoint” —Stephen King

 

I Am Behind You
By John Ajvide Lindqvist

“Four families wake up one morning in their trailer on an ordinary campsite. However, during the night something strange has happened. Everything outside the camping grounds has disappeared, and the world has been transformed into an endless expanse of grass. The sky is blue, but there is no sign of the sun; there are no trees, no flowers, no birds. And every radio plays nothing but the songs of sixties pop icon Peter Himmelstrand.”

 

The Underground Railroad
By Colson Whitehead

“Cora is a young slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. An outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is on the cusp of womanhood—where greater pain awaits. And so when Caesar, a slave who has recently arrived from Virginia, urges her to join him on the Underground Railroad, she seizes the opportunity and escapes with him. In Colson Whitehead’s ingenious conception, the Underground Railroad is no mere metaphor: engineers and conductors operate a secret network of actual tracks and tunnels beneath the Southern soil. Cora embarks on a harrowing flight from one state to the next, encountering, like Gulliver, strange yet familiar iterations of her own world at each stop.”

 

Novellas

The Sadist’s Bible
By Nicole Cushing

“What is Heaven? What is Hell? Ellie lives with the fear that she is an abomination. An affront to God. If her Bible Belt community were to ever discover Ellie’s desires for the intimate touch of a woman, then her husband, pastor, friends, and neighbors would all despise and shun her. But by way of the worldwide web Ellie finds a kindred spirit in Lori Morris, a beautiful young woman with a hideous secret. Brought together by their lust, their shame, and a shared sense of hopelessness, Ellie and Lori agree to end their lives in a single night of sex, torture, depravity, and finally suicide in a luxurious hotel. But Lori has another agenda: to escape an oppressive force that could be God, or possibly the Devil. In truth, He’s something far, far worse. Just remember: He wants us broken.”

 

The Ballad of Black Tom
By Victor LaValle

“Charles Thomas Tester hustles to put food on the table, keep the roof over his father’s head, from Harlem to Flushing Meadows to Red Hook. He knows what magic a suit can cast, the invisibility a guitar case can provide, and the curse written on his skin that attracts the eye of wealthy white folks and their cops. But when he delivers an occult tome to a reclusive sorceress in the heart of Queens, Tom opens a door to a deeper realm of magic, and earns the attention of things best left sleeping.”

 

Short Stories

Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine
By Kevin Wilson

“‘Wildfire Johnny’ is the story of a man who discovers a magic razor that allows him to travel back in time. ‘Scroll Through the Weapons’ is about a couple taking care of their underfed and almost feral nieces and nephews. ‘Signal to the Faithful’ follows a boy as he takes a tense road trip with his priest. And ‘Baby, You’re Gonna Be Mine,’ the title story, is about a narcissistic rock star who moves back home during a rough patch. These stories all build on each other in strange and remarkable ways, showcasing Wilson’s crackling wit and big heart.”

 

Poetry

The Lice
By W.S. Merwin

“When first published in 1967, W.S. Merwin’s The Lice was ground-breaking. Its visionary urgency directly engaged the nexus of aesthetics and morality, exerting an immediate and lasting effect on the writing and reading of poetry. Like all great art, this monumental work continues to inspire.”

 

DATACLYSM.jpg
By Carleen Tibbetts

“This book is something else pretending to be a book. The something else is not conceptual and not lyric and not documentary and not not those things, either. ‘[T]his book is an intimacy.’ This book is (leaking) the digital world. This book is digital interfaces as selves. This book is a study in coolness-but not a vulgar sort of study and not any exclusive/limited sort of coolness, nothing you’ve ever heard of before. This book is against about; it’s also about the Internet. It’s trolling Capitalism and sub-tweeting (imo) Ginsberg/consumer data/Romanticism/lifestyle/Amazon/clickbait (and this book knows they’re all the same and doesn’t need to name names for you to know just what kind of critique is happening here), and it is, of course, viscerally disgusted with trolling and tweeting and clicking. But this book has a ‘you’ and that ‘you’ is alive (a Tibbetts-style Cronenberg-esque body inside of a ‘goldfronded viscosity’).” —Olivia Cronk, author of Skin Horse

 

Nonfiction

A Handbook of Disappointed Fate
By Anne Boyer

A Handbook of Disappointed Fate highlights a decade of Anne Boyer’s interrogative writing on poetry, death, love, lambs, and other impossible questions.”

 

Holy Terror: Andy Warhol Close Up
By Bob Colacello

“In these pages, Bob Colacello, editor of Warhol’s Interview magazine, takes us there with Andy: into the Factory office, into Studio 54, into wild celebrity-studded parties, and into the early-morning phone calls where the mysterious artist was at his most honest and vulnerable. Colacello gives us, as no one else can, a riveting portrait of this extraordinary man: brilliant, controlling, shy, insecure, and immeasurably influential.”

 

Jane: A Murder
By Maggie Nelson

Jane tells the spectral story of the life and death of Maggie Nelson’s aunt Jane, who was murdered in 1969 while a first-year law student at the University of Michigan. Though officially unsolved, Jane’s murder was apparently the third in a series of seven brutal rape-murders in the area between 1967 and 1969. Nelson was born a few years after Jane’s death, and the narrative is suffused with the long shadow her murder cast over both the family and her psyche.”

 

 

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Image: discovertheburgh.com

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