Sarah Moss is a master of close third person perspective. In this novella that rotates between different strangers’ perspectives while on a dismal, rainy holiday in Scotland, we become so tightly entwined in the idle thoughts of our characters that it’s almost disorienting, nearly uncomfortable. I admire the way Moss understands and explores human flaws. In way of plot, there’s little, but that’s not the point. The point is: What if you could see and understand how everyone was thinking, all at once? It’s a power I’m sure I don’t want to have, but I’m confident that Moss has it.
I’ve read Tennessee Williams’ breakout masterpiece many times, and even taught it to high school students for a couple years. But it’s been a while, and I wanted to see if it was still good. If possible, I think it’s even gotten better. The fragility of hope, the way regret will always find us, the illusions we believe… it’s all here. A pillar of American Theater.
The Changeling is a stunning piece of modern horror. Victor LaValle pulls off a feat that somehow blends humor, terror, the incorporation of fairytales, social commentary, a New York City setting, and a narrative voice so genuine that you can’t help but trust it implicitly. There are so many allegorical levels at work here, it’s dizzying. It’s a story about parenthood, race, gender, belief, technology, evil, and dogged hope. A fascinating read.
How High We Go in the Dark is structurally fascinating. It reminded me of the way family stories get passed down, and we end up remembering names from someone else’s memory because the names were important… even if we don’t really grasp why or to whom. We learn about important moments from lives that never touched ours, but yet treasure those seeds of information and carry them with us, believing they’re a part of our story, too. (Does that make sense?) What I’m driving at is Nagamatsu’s intentional, recursive setting down and picking up of themes in different time periods, and different lives, all ones that are struggling through the great challenges of living on planet earth. This novel imagines the fractal-patterned fallout of grief on a global scale as it manifests in individual experiences. It’s surprising, timely, and affecting.
I decided to read Wuthering Heights for the first time, with the determination to see it through no matter what. It is a punishing read, and really a horrible experience emotionally. But my goal in reading it was to understand why it’s a classic, and that did come to me by the end. It’s a book about evil, and a family bound together by cruel intimacies and domestic violence infecting multiple generations of the Earnshaw/Linton houses. The haunting that occurs is the echoing legacy of that harm. Love, in this novel’s context, is an obsessive, all-encompassing passion that easily trips over to rage–for these characters, they are one and the same. Tenderness and hurt occur in the same spaces, haunting the Heights with trauma.
Once There Were Wolves is a masterclass in narrative tension. Charlotte McConaghy weaves mysteries together like poetry, and pulls those threads tight. This book simply smolders. The characters are compelling, each dealing with legacies of violence in their own way. There are plenty of wolves to be seen, and they are described in a transfixing, soul-stopping way. The wolf has been seen throughout history as the beautiful horror that lurks in the woods, and the book lets that concept out to play. How do we reconcile these twin capacities: the one to awe and the one to kill? That question is for wolves, for love, for human progress, and it’s all here to consider.
Appleseed by Matt Bell is a staggering feat of storytelling woven from threads of the possible, the forgotten, the fierce, and the free. I love the exuberance and wondrous vision of Bell’s writing; he can make a colonial apple-planting faun make sense in the same book where a semi-bionic human remnant pilots something called a photovoltaic bubble across a far-future icescape.
Does that sound insane? That’s because it is. It is absolutely insane.
But the most insane thing about this book is its ability to sing all at once to every past, present, and future moment of the human relationship with our planet, this story we are all part of. Human beings have always and will always continue to worship, disrupt, invent, sabotage, and mythologize the earth that they call home. Bell explores these tendencies as a unified and recurring cycle of stories that reveals the best and worst of what we are, and what we could be.
Eerie, slippery, lush, and dark, the distinct stories in this collection are jointed together by their setting and recurring characters. Vadnais’ writing (by way of Strauss’ translation) does dreamlike horror very well, while imagining how the near-future world, rather than being humanity’s victim, may very well reckon with us. Fascinating stuff.
Sarah Perry’s sophomore novel may be a gothic tale about fear, but the writing itself is absolutely fearless. Uniting several different stories that cross time and place by cataloging them as proof in a surreal monster investigation, Perry dissects the idea of guilt in ways both sweeping and intimate. In a narrative style that pulls the reader (at times uncomfortably) close, the story allows us to discover and dread along with our protagonist. Unnerving, at times devastating, at times funny, and always honest, this is a modern, cursed gothic story told with a wildfire level of passion, even as it masquerades beneath British restraint.
Jac Jemc’s short story collection is just sensational. These stories are tied together by strokes of odd happenstance that whittle change into the lives of their characters. Surprising, uncanny, funny, and dark, these stories are all about people we recognize. Strange as they may be, we’ve all met them and we’ve all privately wondered, “What’s it like to be that person?” This book offers one set of answers, shining Jemc’s unique light on the human experience. Such talent!