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.
What I love most about Matt Bell’s REFUSE TO BE DONE is its uncommon trust in the novel writer it is speaking to. I’ve never read a craft or process guide that so clearly believes in the capability of the storyteller, or so practically hands over immediately useful things. It is challenging but affirming, and synthesizes sound bytes of stellar writing advice from across the literary world with Bell’s own lived-in, battle-tested, demanding-yet-achievable process and workflow fundamentals. This book will remain a key item in my adventure pack while I journey through the first draft of my second book, and likely many more drafts to come.
What a treasure of a book by Kathryn Aalto, profiling the greatest female nature writers most of us have never heard of. Immensely enjoyed the academic exploration of these important legacies, how they changed through time, and how they set work in motion that is still in progress today. I felt like I was walking with them thanks to Aalto’s companionable, evocative prose. Rigorous in its exhaustive collection of related works as well–a great reference for future reading.
I was happy to be gifted a copy of Happy-Go-Lucky, the newest by David Sedaris. I never fail to find something to impress me in David’s writing. His way of saying the world is so good at putting words to seeing the world in a particular way, during imperfect, improbable moments both banal and monumental. I feel very at home whenever I read his work. This one is no exception. Snort-laughing leading right into tears. He isn’t for everyone, but he is for me. This book is just another piece of proof that David’s a damn fine writer.
The subtitle on the cover of Tripping Arcadia says “a gothic novel.” And it is, in the most classical sense. Extreme, explosive emotions. Blending the beautiful with the obscene. Rich people who are incredibly unhappy. People whose first reaction to somebody they feel slighted by is to try to kill them. Unreliable, loathsome first person narrator. This book has all that. Less Gatsby, more Wuthering Heights or Frankenstein. It’s not supposed to make sense–it’s gothic!
Joseph M. Lopez’s poetry collection THE LETHARGY OF FOG is meditative and open, a recursive journey through months and days, churchyards and forest trails, winter as the long quiet way of finding one’s way back to the beginning. I love how honest this book is.
Favorites from this collection: ◇A Comforting Sound ◇The Axe Man ◇Constant ◇Winter is a Woman ◇L.Y. ◇Saturday in the Rain
Gabrielle Zevin’s novel Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a story deeply steeped in the culture of gaming that was quietly shaping reality from within imaginary spaces, starting in the late eighties and continuing until today. A hot topic these days, but rarely explored in fiction with such thorough tenderness. There’s a certain insanity that accompanies creative passion, and this is the force driving the tempestuous friendship of our two game designer main characters, who can’t live with or without each other. For different players, games are an obsession, a comfort, an artistic experience, a release, or a thin surrogate for a fulfilling reality. Zevin explores all this and more in her brilliant book.
Madeleine Wattenberg’s poetry collection I/O is as startling as it is innovative. The imagery through-lines of coins, peacocks, plums, laboratories, dirigibles, and knives complicate a story that is the echo of myth come to rest in a 2000’s apartment kitchen. These poems whisper and lurk, confess and shroud. Anyone turned into what they never meant to be will find themselves in Wattenberg’s careful verse, burning with cold.
My favorites from this collection: * Charon’s Obol * Field Guide to Fission * Imprint with Need * The Blazing Field * Osteoclasts * Aphagia * Poem for the Father Outside the Poem * (Re) * Except by Violence (ii)
I understand the sensational appeal. Despite its sometimes outright soapy-ness, the immersive quality of Owens’ writing is nothing less than seductive. The marsh is the true unforgettable character in this book, and the relateable pull of Kya’s loneliness would tug the coldest heart. The ending was not fully realized in my opinion, but this book deserves its place as a bestseller.