What We’re Reading: October 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

People Live Still in Cashtown Corners
By Tony Burgess

“‘It is what it is. That’s her car out there and, well, that’s her right there.’

Jeremy looks at the woman again. There’s a few flies dipping in and out of the back of her skull.

‘What happened to her?’

I feel a little uncomfortable. I wasn’t really planning to lay it all out like this.

‘Well, I hate to say this but I killed her.’

Jeremy nods slowly. He’s starting to take this in and I’m relieved.

‘Don’t ask me why. Anything I say is just gonna sound ridiculous.’

I rub my hand in my hair. I want to appear frustrated.

‘Things just got out of control.’

Bob Clark owns the Self Serve in Cashtown Corners. It’s the only business there and Bob is the only resident. He’s never been comfortable around other people. Until he starts to kill them. And murder, Bob soon discovers, is magic. People Live Still in Cashtown Corners is Bob’s account of a tragedy we all thought was senseless.”

 

The n-Body Problem
By Tony Burgess

“In the end, the zombie apocalypse was nothing more than a waste disposal problem. Burn them in giant ovens? Bad optics. Bury them in landfill sites? The first attempt created acres of twitching, roiling mud. The acceptable answer is to jettison the millions of immortal automatons into orbit. Soon earth’s near space is a mesh of bodies interfering with the sunlight and having an effect on our minds that we never saw coming. Aggressive hypochondria, rampant depressive disorders, irresistible suicidal thought—resulting in teenage suicide cults, who want nothing more than to orbit the earth as living dead. Life on earth has slowly become not worth living. And death is no longer an escape.”

 

Make Your Home Among Strangers
By Jennine Capó Crucet

“When Lizet-the daughter of Cuban immigrants and the first in her family to graduate from high school-secretly applies and is accepted to an ultra-elite college, her parents are furious at her decision to leave Miami. Just weeks before she’s set to start school, her parents divorce and her father sells her childhood home, leaving Lizet, her mother, and Leidy-Lizet’s older sister, a brand-new single mom-without a steady income and scrambling for a place to live.

Amidst this turmoil, Lizet begins her first semester at Rawlings College, distracted by both the exciting and difficult moments of freshman year. But the privileged world of the campus feels utterly foreign, as does her new awareness of herself as a minority. Struggling both socially and academically, she returns to Miami for a surprise Thanksgiving visit, only to be overshadowed by the arrival of Ariel Hernandez, a young boy whose mother died fleeing with him from Cuba on a raft. The ensuing immigration battle puts Miami in a glaring spotlight, captivating the nation and entangling Lizet’s entire family, especially her mother.”

 

I Wish I Was Like You
By S.P. Miskowski

“Greta didn’t set out to solve a murder. But if the first thing you see when you come home after a long day at a lousy job is your own dead body, it can make even the most cynical non-starter in 1994 Seattle take an interest. Refusing to believe her dead eyes, the one-time theater editor at the city’s least noteworthy periodical—now a bitter ghost haunting the streets of the Emerald City—will happily break every rule of crime fiction to tell her story and prove she didn’t die a lame-ass, suicidal Cobain imitator.”


A Tale for the Time Being
By Ruth Ozeki

“In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying. But before she ends it all, Nao first plans to document the life of her great grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in ways she can scarcely imagine. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.”

 

Short Stories

Friday Black
By Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

“These stories tackle urgent instances of racism and cultural unrest, and explore the many ways we fight for humanity in an unforgiving world. In ‘The Finkelstein Five,’ Adjei-Brenyah gives us an unforgettable reckoning of the brutal prejudice of our justice system. In ‘Zimmer Land,’ we see a far-too-easy-to-believe imagining of racism as sport. And ‘Friday Black’ and ‘How to Sell a Jacket as Told by Ice King’ show the horrors of consumerism and the toll it takes on us all.”


We Show What We Have Learned
By Clare Beams

“The literary, historic, and fantastic collide in these wise and exquisitely unsettling stories. From bewildering assemblies in school auditoriums to the murky waters of a Depression-era health resort, Beams’s landscapes are tinged with other­worldliness, and her characters’ desires stretch the limits of reality.”


False Bingo
By Jac Jemc

“Fueled by paranoia and visceral suspense, and crafted with masterful restraint, these seventeen stories explore what happens when our fears cross over into the real, if only for a fleeting moment. Identities are stolen, alternate universes are revealed, and innocence is lost as the consequences of minor, seemingly harmless decisions erupt to sabotage a false sense of stability. ‘This is not a morality tale about the goodness of one character triumphing over the bad of another,’ the sadistic narrator of ‘Pastoral’ announces. Rather, False Bingo is a collection of realist fables exploring how conflicting moralities can coexist: the good, the bad, the indecipherable.”

 

The World Doesn’t Require You
By Rion Amilcar Scott

“Established by the leaders of the country’s only successful slave revolt in the mid-nineteenth century, Cross River still evokes the fierce rhythms of its founding. In lyrical prose and singular dialect, a saga beats forward that echoes the fables carried down for generations―like the screecher birds who swoop down for their periodic sacrifice, and the water women who lure men to wet deaths.

Among its residents―wildly spanning decades, perspectives, and species―are David Sherman, a struggling musician who just happens to be God’s last son; Tyrone, a ruthless PhD candidate, whose dissertation about a childhood game ignites mayhem in the neighboring, once-segregated town of Port Yooga; and Jim, an all-too-obedient robot who serves his Master. As the book builds to its finish with Special Topics in Loneliness Studies, a fully-realized novella, two unhinged professors grapple with hugely different ambitions, and the reader comes to appreciate the intricacy of the world Scott has created―one where fantasy and reality are eternally at war.”

 

Poetry

dear girl: a reckoning
By drea brown

dear girl: a reckoning revisits the biography of 18th century poet Phillis Wheatley and reimagines her journey through the Middle Passage to Boston. The poems are a gathering of ghosts whose voices shift from slaver to enslaved, from the mouths of the sacred to haunted dreamer. Echoes of loss and fracture each peer into silences and gaps to uncover narratives of restoration. The poems are letters and mausoleums, voices of ghosts interspersed with theories of transgenerational trauma, that take on a range of forms and innovative strategies that visualize not only grief but a range of possibilities for healing. dear girl: a reckoning is a book of conjure that aims to call and quell ghosts of a past not past.”

 

The Hounds of No
By Lara Glenum

“In this entirely unheimlich debut, Lara Glenum enters the stage of American poetry like a Fritz Lang glamor-girl-cum-anatomical-model, swinging a string of what might be pearls…. The operating chamber is an operating theater, the stage set of the body indistinguishable from the other institutions that make our provincial village hum: mental hospitals, martyrs’ shrines, finishing schools. In an era where the term ‘surreal’ has all the potency of a wink and a nod, Glenum recovers the political intensity and daring of the Surrealist project.”

 

Praise
By Robert Haas

“Former Poet Laureate Robert Hass 1979’s Praise, the writer’s second volume of poetry.”

 

Nature Poem
By Tommy Pico

Nature Poem follows Teebs―a young, queer, American Indian (or NDN) poet―who can’t bring himself to write a nature poem. For the reservation-born, urban-dwelling hipster, the exercise feels stereotypical, reductive, and boring. He hates nature. He prefers city lights to the night sky. He’d slap a tree across the face. He’d rather write a mountain of hashtag punchlines about death and give head in a pizza-parlor bathroom; he’d rather write odes to Aretha Franklin and Hole. While he’s adamant―bratty, even―about his distaste for the word ‘natural,’ over the course of the book we see him confronting the assimilationist, historical, colonial-white ideas that collude NDN people with nature. The closer his people were identified with the ‘natural world,’ he figures, the easier it was to mow them down like the underbrush. But Teebs gradually learns how to interpret constellations through his own lens, along with human nature, sexuality, language, music, and Twitter. Even while he reckons with manifest destiny and genocide and centuries of disenfranchisement, he learns how to have faith in his own voice.”

 

The Destroyer in the Glass
By Noah Warren

“Noah Warren’s brilliant collection of poetry, The Destroyer in the Glass, is the 110th recipient of the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize, the oldest annual literary award in the United States. Warren explores universal themes of isolation and the desire for human connection in a series of tightly crystallized poems that question the damage we have done—to ourselves and to others—in the pursuit of knowledge and a stable idea of who we are. Balancing a tendency toward form, rhyme, and allusion with a freer, expressive style, this exceptional young poet charts the development of the self through, by, and in language.”

 

Nonfiction

Face It: A Memoir
By Debbie Harry

“In an arresting mix of visceral, soulful storytelling and stunning visuals, Face It upends the standard music memoir while delivering a truly prismatic portrait. With all the grit, grime, and glory recounted in intimate detail, Face It re-creates the downtown scene of 1970s New York City, where Blondie played alongside the Ramones, Television, Talking Heads, Iggy Pop and David Bowie. Aesthetically dazzling, and including never-before-seen photographs, bespoke illustrations and fan art installations, Face It brings Debbie Harry’s world and artistic sensibilities to life.  

Following her path from glorious commercial success to heroin addiction, the near-death of partner Chris Stein, a heart-wrenching bankruptcy, and Blondie’s breakup as a band to her multifaceted acting career in more than thirty films, a stunning solo career and the triumphant return of her band, and her tireless advocacy for the environment and LGBTQ rights, Face It is a cinematic story of a woman who made her own path, and set the standard for a generation of artists who followed in her footsteps—a memoir as dynamic as its subject.”

 

Entering the Blobosphere: A Musing on Blobs
By Laura Hyunjhee Kim

Entering the Blobosphere: A Musing on Blobs boldly suggests blobs are the unsung, yet integral link in our language to build upon and describe ideas, culture, and knowledge. The common perspective of the blob is an amorphous form with an otherwise gooey texture, however, this is a gross undermining of the power of language and the vivacity of blobs. Fueled by the speculative ideology of blobs as both a theory and a practice, Kim illustrates the moldable and transcendent use of ‘blob’ as a lens to understand the spaces lurking between life and art. Blobs aren’t solely a physical form. But what is a blob if not just a physical thing?

 

How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America
By Kiese Laymon

“Author and essayist Kiese Laymon is one of the most unique, stirring, and powerful new voices in American writing. How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America is a collection of his essays, touching on subjects ranging from family, race, violence, and celebrity to music, writing, and coming of age in Mississippi. In this collection, Laymon deals in depth with his own personal story, which is filled with trials and reflections that illuminate under-appreciated aspects of contemporary American life. New and unexpected in contemporary American writing, Laymon’s voice mixes the colloquial with the acerbic, while sharp insights and blast-furnace heat calls to mind a black 21st-century Mark Twain. Much like Twain, Laymon’s writing is steeped in controversial issues both private and public. This collection introduces Laymon as a writer who balances volatile concepts on a razor’s edge and chops up much-discussed and often-misunderstood topics with his scathing humor and fresh, unexpected takes on the ongoing absurdities, frivolities, and calamities of American life.”

 

Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions
By Valeria Luiselli

“Structured around the forty questions Luiselli translates and asks undocumented Latin American children facing deportation, Tell Me How It Ends humanizes these young migrants and highlights the contradiction between the idea of America as a fiction for immigrants and the reality of racism and fear—both here and back home.”

 

Dark Ecology: For a Logic of Future Coexistence
By Timothy Morton

“The logistics of agricultural society resulted in global warming and hardwired dangerous ideas about life-forms into the human mind. Dark ecology puts us in an uncanny position of radical self-knowledge, illuminating our place in the biosphere and our belonging to a species in a sense that is far less obvious than we like to think. Morton explores the logical foundations of the ecological crisis, which is suffused with the melancholy and negativity of coexistence yet evolving, as we explore its loop form, into something playful, anarchic, and comedic. His work is a skilled fusion of humanities and scientific scholarship, incorporating the theories and findings of philosophy, anthropology, literature, ecology, biology, and physics. Morton hopes to reestablish our ties to nonhuman beings and to help us rediscover the playfulness and joy that can brighten the dark, strange loop we traverse.”

 

Keeping / the window open: Interviews, Statements, Alarms, Excursions
By Rosemarie & Keith Waldrop

“A rich array of materials coalesce here into a vibrant portrait, in text and image, of two extraordinary artists and collaborators. For nearly sixty years, the Waldrops have influenced multiple generations of writers through their own poetry and fiction, translations, teaching, and their press, Burning Deck, which published some of the most influential authors of late-twentieth-century avant-garde literature. This collection seeks to illustrate the many ways in which the Waldrops have expanded the possibilities of bookcraft, art, community, and literature.”

 

Graphic Novels

Wytches, Vol. 1
Written by Scott Snyder & Illustrated by Jock

“Everything you thought you knew about witches is wrong. They are much darker, and they are much more horrifying. Wytches takes the mythology of witches to a far creepier, bone-chilling place than readers have dared venture before.

When the Rooks family moves to the remote town of Litchfield, NH to escape a haunting trauma, they’re hopeful about starting over. But something evil is waiting for them in the woods just beyond town. Watching from the trees. Ancient … and hungry. Collects Wytches #1-6.”

 

Anthologies

Moving Borders: Three Decades of Innovatie Writing by Women
Edited by Mary Margaret Sloan

“This is an anthology of over 300 innovative works written by 50 contemporary American and Canadian women. Arranged according to the publishing chronology of the contributors, not their birth dates, these pieces go beyond boundaries to explore the limits of poetry, narrative, fiction, and drama through blended genres, blended media, and a multitude of mixed typographical and spatial orders. The anthology begins with Lorine Niedecker’s (1903-70) previously unpublished and recently discovered poem, ‘Progression,’ and ranges to Melanie Neilsen, who began publishing in the 1990s. The book ends with ‘Poetics and Exposition,’ a selection of explanatory, critical, and analytical pieces on writing by 23 of the contributors.” —Jeris Cassel, Rutgers University Libraries

 

 

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Image: truehorror.net

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