What We’re Reading: August 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

Memorabilia
By A.S. Coomer

“When adjunct professor Stephen Paul accidentally discovers the suicide note of his recently deceased friend, he unwittingly trips a wire into his own enigmatic madness. Within hours, the basic characteristics of his life rupture and are transformed by incarceration and psychiatric chaos. As a prisoner of the state and of his own body, Stephen’s existence appears absurd, ruthless, and barely stitched together. He must come to embrace that the only way out is through an associative mind, one that is as much invisible as it is material.”

 

EEG
By Daša Drndić

“Andreas Ban’s suicide attempt has failed. Though very ill, he still finds the will to tap on the glass of history to summon those imprisoned within. Mercilessly, he dissects society and his environment, shunning all favors as he goes after the evils and hidden secrets of our times. History remembers the names of the perpetrators, not the victims―Ban remembers and honors the lost. He travels from Rijeka to Zagreb, from Belgrade to Tirana, from Parisian avenues to Italian castles. Ghosts follow him wherever he goes: chess grandmasters who disappeared during WWII; the lost inhabitants of Latvia; war criminals who found work in the CIA and died peacefully in their beds. Ban’s family is with him too, those already dead and those with one foot in the grave. As if left with only a few pieces in a chess game, Andreas Ban―and Daša Drndić―play a stunning last match against Death.”

 

Knives, Forks, Scissors, Flames
By Stefan Kiesbye

“Moving from Berlin to Strathleven, a picture-perfect village on the Baltic Coast, was supposed to be a new beginning for Benno, his wife Carolin, and their six-year-old son, Tim, who is suffering from a mysterious illness. However, shortly after arriving in the country, Benno finds the corpse of a young woman in the woods, and when no one in the village admits to having known her, Benno initiates his own investigation. He digs deep into Strathleven’s superstitions and ritualistic past to recover the history of the murdered woman, yet will he be able to save his marriage and the lives of his wife and son?”

 

Cenote City
By Monique Quintana

“Lune’s mother cannot stop crying after all the hospitals shut down. She cries and cries and finally she is exiled to the cenote, where her tears endlessly fill the giant sinkhole. She becomes a big tourist attraction. People come from miles to see Marcrina cry into the cenote–part prisoner, part carnival attraction, part saint, Marcrina’s story is one of heartbreak, love, and endurance. This is the story of Lune, of Marcrina, of Lune’s son Nico, and of a strange place called Cenote City, where the world of magic and the dead entwines with daily life in enchanting and unsettling ways. Monique Quintana’s words will pull you under, down to the depths, where tears flow, hearts break, and dreams are reborn every day.”

 

Authority
By Jeff Vandermeer

“John Rodrigues (aka “Control”) is the Southern Reach’s newly appointed head. Working with a distrustful but desperate team, a series of frustrating interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and hours of profoundly troubling video footage, Control begins to penetrate the secrets of Area X. But with each discovery he must confront disturbing truths about himself and the agency he’s pledged to serve.”

 

You Who Enter Here
Erika T. Wurth

“Matthew has grown up in hell. His father is gone, and his mother drinks and hooks up with men who abuse Matthew and his sister. He finally decides to hit the streets of Farmington to get away and to drink himself to death—in his mind, his destiny. He meets Chris, who saves him, takes him home, cleans him up, gets him sober, and initiates Matthew into one of Albuquerque’s Native American gangs, the 505s. The 505s have been around for generations. They now sell heroin, and it’s their subservience to the Mexican gangs that has allowed them to survive. However, Chris decides that his little Native American gang deserves to be as big as the Mexican gangs in Albuquerque, bringing in new business from deep inside Indigenous communities in Mexico. Then, Matthew falls in love with Chris’s girlfriend. Matthew’s story is one of terrible darkness, but also, unexpected beauty and tenderness.”

 

Novellas

Manhunt
By Jaime Fountaine

“In Jaime Fountaine’s Manhunt, an unnamed narrator experiences a summer on the cusp of womanhood, exploring her own sexuality, the deep cuts of her teenage years, and the extreme ennui of suburban decay.”

 

Short Stories

The Dissolution of Small Worlds
By Kurt Fawver

“Eerie and unnerving events are welcome reads for horror and weird fiction aficionados, and Kurt Fawver’s new collection delivers: a group of work-study students grow obsessed with a particular, otherworldly room at the university library; a monster’s mother wants her to assume a traditional life; and a mysterious calling haunts an elderly man at a nursing home; strange Halloween traditions draw a writer to a remote town.”

 

Last Days of the Microsaurs
By Kelsie Hahn

“This is how dinosaurs have fun. They congregate at clubs; they keg-stand; they clutch at eggs and imagine the success of their babies. They don’t mind drawn-out dental exams or soggy bus seats. They don’t mind being bones. They know that there are things that even inescapable extinction events can’t erase. Winner of The Cupboard Pamphlet’s 2017 Annual Contest, Kelsie Hahn’s Last Days of the Microsaurs excavates the ancient impact remnants of every awkward interaction that predated you. So go on. Go extinct. Your dinosaur friends have something to tell you.”

 

The Very Best of Caitlín R. Kiernan

“Caitlín R. Kiernan is one of dark fantasy and horror’s most acclaimed and influential short fiction writers. Her powerful, unexpected stories shatter morality, gender, and sexuality: a reporter is goaded by her toxic girlfriend into visiting sadistic art exhibits; a countess in a decaying movie theater is sated by her servants; a collector offers his greatest achievement to ensnare a musician who grieves for her missing sister.”

 

Sefira & Other Betrayals
By John Langan

“From the award-winning writer of The Fisherman comes a new collection of stories. A pair of disgraced soldiers seek revenge on the man who taught them how to torture. A young lawyer learns the history of the secret that warped her parents’ marriage. A writer arrives at a mansion overlooking the Hudson River to write about the strange paper balloons floating through its grounds. A couple walks a path that shows them their past, present, and terrible future. A woman and her husband discover a cooler on the side of the road whose contents are decidedly unearthly. A man driving cross country has a late-night encounter with a figure claiming to be the Devil. And in the short novel that gives the collection its title, a woman chases a monster in a race against time.”

 

Poetry

Zirconia …………………. Bad Bad
By Chelsey Minnis

“Collected in this volume are Chelsey Minnis’s first two books: Zirconia (winner of the Alberta Prize) and Bad Bad. Zirconia introduced a speaker described as ‘half-smirking, half-weeping’ by the Village Voice. Minnis heralded the gurlesque, a term coined for the occasion and defined as ‘a feminine, feminist incorporating of the grotesque and cruel with the spangled and dreamy.'”

 

Splinters Are Children of Wood
By Leia Penina Wilson

“Samoan myths and Western stories punctuate this volume in a search to reconcile identity and education. The lyrical declaration is at once an admiration of love and self-loathing. She kills herself. Resurrects herself. Kills herself again. She is also killed by the world. Resurrected. Killed again. These poems map displacement, discontent, and an increasing suspicion of the world itself, or the ways people learn the world. Drawing on the work of Bhanu Kapil, Anne Waldman, Alice Notley, and Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Wilson’s poems reveal familiarity and strangeness, invocation and accusation. Both ritual and ruination, the poems return again and again to desire, myth, the sacred, and body.”

 

Nonfiction

Plainwater: Essays and Poetry
By Anne Carson

“The poetry and prose collected in Plainwater are a testament to the extraordinary imagination of Anne Carson, a writer described by Michael Ondaatje as ‘the most exciting poet writing in English today.’ Succinct and astonishingly beautiful, these pieces stretch the boundaries of language and literary form, while juxtaposing classical and modern traditions.”

 

This One Will Hurt You
By Paul Crenshaw

“The powerful essays in Paul Crenshaw’s This One Will Hurt You range in subject matter from the fierce tornadoes that crop up in Tornado Alley every spring and summer to a supposedly haunted one-hundred-year-old tuberculosis sanatorium that he lived on the grounds of as a child. They ruminate on the effects of crystal meth on small southern towns, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, and the ongoing struggle of being a parent in an increasingly disturbing world. They surprise, whether discovering a loved one’s secret, an opossum’s motivation, or the unexpected decision four beer-guzzling, college-aged men must make. They tell stories of family and the past, the histories of small things such as walls and weather, and the faith it takes to hold together in the face of death.”

 

Poet Be Like God: Jack Spicer and the San Francisco Renaissance
By Lewis Ellingham & Kevin Killian

“Jack Spicer, unlike his contemporaries Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Gary Snyder, was a poet who disdained publishing and relished his role as a social outcast. He died in 1965 virtually unrecognized, yet in the following years his work and thought have attracted and intrigued an international audience. Now this comprehensive biography gives a pivotal poet his due. Based on interviews with scores of Spicer’s contemporaries, Poet Be Like God details the most intimate aspects of Spicer’s life-his family, his friends, his lovers-illuminating not only the man but also many of his poems. Such illumination extends also to the works of others whom Spicer came to know, including the writers Frank O’Hara, Robert Duncan, Denise Levertov, Helen Adam, Robin Blaser, Charles Olson, Philip K. Dick, Richard Brautigan, and Marianne Moore and the painters Jess, Fran Herndon, and Jay DeFeo. The resulting narrative, an engaging chronicle of the San Francisco Renaissance and the emergence of the North Beach gay scene during the 50s and 60s, will be indispensable reading for students of American literature and gay studies.”

 

Heavy: An American Memoir
By Kiese Laymon

“In Heavy, Laymon writes eloquently and honestly about growing up a hard-headed black son to a complicated and brilliant black mother in Jackson, Mississippi. From his early experiences of sexual violence, to his suspension from college, to his trek to New York as a young college professor, Laymon charts his complex relationship with his mother, grandmother, anorexia, obesity, sex, writing, and ultimately gambling. By attempting to name secrets and lies he and his mother spent a lifetime avoiding, Laymon asks himself, his mother, his nation, and us to confront the terrifying possibility that few in this nation actually know how to responsibly love, and even fewer want to live under the weight of actually becoming free.”

 

The Future of the New: Artistic Innovation in Times of Social Acceleration
Edited by Thijs Lijster

“In The Future of the New, artists, theorists and professionals working the art field reflect on the role of the arts in a world that is speeding up and changing through the joint forces of globalization, digitization, commodification and financialization. Can artistic innovation still function as a source of critique? How do artists, theorists and art organizations deal with the changing role of and discourse on innovation? Should we look for alternative ways to innovate, or should we change our discourse and look for other (new!) ways to talk about the new? Combining timely analyses of contemporary art and inspiring visions for the future, The Future of the New attempts to set the agenda for the debate on the function, value and future of artistic innovation.”

 

Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992
By Anna Deavere Smith

Twilight is a stunning work of ‘documentary theater’ that explores the devastating human impact of the five days of riots following the Rodney King verdict. From nine months of interviews with more than two hundred people, Smith has chosen the voices that best reflect the diversity and tension of a city in turmoil: a disabled Korean man, a white male Hollywood talent agent, a Panamanian immigrant mother, a teenage black gang member, a macho Mexican-American artist, Rodney King’s aunt, beaten truck driver Reginald Denny, former Los Angeles police chief Daryl Gates, and other witnesses, participants, and victims.”

 

Siberian Exile: Blood, War, and a Granddaughter’s Reckoning
By Julija Sukys

“In Siberian Exile Šukys weaves together the two narratives: the story of Ona, noble exile and innocent victim, and that of Anthony, accused war criminal. She examines the stories that communities tell themselves and considers what happens when the stories we’ve been told all our lives suddenly and irrevocably change, and how forgiveness or grace operate across generations and across the barriers of life and death.”

 

The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games
By Ebony Elizabeth Thomas

The Dark Fantastic is an engaging and provocative exploration of race in popular youth and young adult speculative fiction. Grounded in her experiences as YA novelist, fanfiction writer, and scholar of education, Thomas considers four black girl protagonists from some of the most popular stories of the early 21st century: Bonnie Bennett from the CW’s The Vampire Diaries, Rue from Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games, Gwen from the BBC’s Merlin, and Angelina Johnson from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. Analyzing their narratives and audience reactions to them reveals how these characters mirror the violence against black and brown people in our own world.”

 

 

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Image: wikipedia.com

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