Mapping the Interior is a powerhouse of a novella by Stephen Graham Jones. It’s astonishing to me how some writers can make such a gut-punch impact in 100 slim pages that others struggle to achieve after 400. This story is haunted by searing recursive imagery and faulty memory, lenses blurred by love and dissociation. Mostly limited to the walls of the family home, the setting heightens the urgency, accelerating with every page. The forces who watch from the edge of this story never fully reveal themselves, but we all know them, and they are terrifying–especially seen through the eyes of the narrator–just a boy who barely knows what has happened to him, and later, a man trying to make sense of it.
Any book with an octopus perspective is a friend of mine! Adored Marcellus entirely, and also loving Seattle as much as I do, it was awesome to travel in my mind to the Pacific Northwest to eavesdrop on these charming characters. It’s honestly a bit of a Hallmark Movie experience–save this read for when you need to feel safe, cozy, and to believe everything will turn out in the end.
I understand why this book took the world by storm. Moving fictionalized account of the many personal wars within World War II being fought by the women who soldiers left behind at home… The novel is both treacly and horrific at the same time.
WWII reads are always tough for me. I hate thinking about the fact that all this unthinkable evil really happened to real people, scarring human history forever.
Lynda Barry is a truth-teller. Everything she creates leaves me inspired, just gem-filled. In this book, she plays down her talent as a storyteller, but I think we all know her unique voice is on a tier few others will ever achieve.
Dayna Patterson’s poems in O Lady, Speak Again form a chorus of voices brimming with female power. The collection is an evocation, of the lady ghosts of Shakespeare’s stories and all the women who ever were caught in their roles: mothers, daughters, witches, wives, mourners, queens, nymphs, corpses. They all sing words from Patterson’s own life, vulnerable and generously given. Exploring the tensions caught in the tangle of religion, longing, rage, vision, and ultimately healing, Patterson takes the stage with searing certainty, bringing her lines into conversation with Shakespeare’s to incant a protective spell over women everywhere.
What if you met a monster who opened your eyes to things no human was ever meant to know, to feel, to see? The Devourers takes us there. Das’ writing is gruesome and gorgeous in this blood-soaked tale. Wholly original, sensually charged, graphically violent, and yet also tender, this book reads like an ancient record of horrifying magic that should have been destroyed long ago, but exposes the fabric of our world. Sensational.
Samantha Garner’s debut novel The Quiet is Loud–fusing tarot symbolism, Filipino / Norwegian mythology, and supernatural abilities–is a fresh take on the concept of people with powers. A multi-layered reckoning with family tensions, the pressure and vulnerability around disclosing identity, and the anxiety created by lifelong guilt, this story is so much richer than its thrilling initial concept. I loved the off-balance exploration of curse vs. blessing and the realistic portrayal of how grief impacts our relationships. (Also, the many descriptions of food are omnipresent and so, SO good.)
Ok. So, I have learned that every book Andy Weir writes seems to be narrated by more or less the same character with Andy Weir’s personality. This feature of his writing is tiresome to me, as is the constant need to meticulously explain why the science of x, y, or z would totally work in real life. For these reasons, I almost DNF’ed this book and launched it into proverbial space to find a more appreciative reader.
However, once Rocky appeared, I became so smitten that I overwhelmingly enjoyed the second half. It’s a great book. Fine, I admit it. Thank goodness Rocky came along–he’s my hero.
I came to read Universal Harvester for the weirdness and 90’s nostalgia, almost left because I got so deeply creeped out, but ultimately stayed for John Darnielle’s gut-punch writing and intimate portraiture of midwestern people in all their banality and strangeness. This novel is tough to classify. It reads sort of like horror, but it’s really not–as disturbing as it still is. This is more of a slow burn, a literary haunting, and I appreciate Darnielle’s subtle hand navigating it all. A fantastic novel.
P.s. Had no idea that John is the frontman for The Mountain Goats until I glanced at the bio at the end! Wow John, leave some talent for the rest of us! 🙂
Reading any speculative pandemic novel after living during an actual global pandemic hits differently than I’m sure could even have been imagined by a writer publishing her book in 2014. But, strangely enough, that’s kind of what this book is about: the unexpected weight that art can carry due to the way time changes us, the serendipity of personal reactions and importance, the way old lines read anew in previously unthinkable contexts. This novel is incredible–beautifully crafted, poignant but unforgiving, and very aware about what aspects of our world are at turns precious, cheap, rare, or remarkable. Just gorgeous.