Books

Sarah Gerard’s ‘Binary Star': A Novel About Anorexia and Outer Space That Transcends Its Own Metaphors

I nearly put down Sarah Gerard’s Binary Star after only a few pages. “We know each other’s sickness”; “I empty myself”; the prose is full of clichés, sentences seemingly ripped from the pop psychology of eating disorders and codependent relationships. The debut novel follows such a relationship, from the point of view of an anorexic young woman: the tale of two pathologically self-destructive lovers, our unnamed narrator and her alcoholic boyfriend John. They go on an extended road-trip, attempting to heal each other and save their delicate romance. It all sounds like a book you’ve read a million times before, or a movie you’ve already seen. But the further you read, the clearer it becomes that Gerard knows this even better than you do, and that she isn’t thoughtlessly recycling worn-out language. Her repetition and deployment of clichés couldn’t be more purposeful. … Read More

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Dread Country: Colin Winnette’s ‘Coyote’

This week I reached into a pile of January galleys and removed a hideous green object called Coyote. It’s written by Colin Winnette, an author I’ve never heard of, for Les Figues Press, a publisher I’m not overly familiar with. It was selected for the 2013 NOS Book Contest, a prize I don’t know, by Aimee Bender, a writer who I’ve been meaning to read.

Poised somewhere between a long short story and a novella, Coyote selects a handful of clichés from the rural imaginary — missing children, trashy talk shows, crime procedural, domestic violence, etc. — and overcooks them in the deranged mind of its protagonist. This is a good thing. In order to write about rural America, writers must deal with its viciously circular self-image: the rural imagination is mediated by its own minstrelization on television and in cinema. It has absorbed a representation of itself that it never authored in the first place. … Read More

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Black Lives Matter: An Interview With Jill Leovy About Her Book ‘Ghettoside’

Can one murder begin to tell the story of crime in America? In the careful, intelligent hands of Jill Leovy, Ghettoside: A True Story of Murder in America the answer is “yes,” as she brings the horrifying statistics that disproportionately plague African-American men to life. “They were the nation’s number one crime victims,” she writes in the introduction, “just six percent of the population but nearly 40 percent of those murdered… they were murdered every day, in every city, their bodies stacking up by the thousands, year after year.”

Leovy explores one such case — a tragedy, the murder of a young man whose fatal mistake was wearing the wrong gang-affiliated baseball cap in the wrong neighborhood — by following Detective John Skaggs, a man whose love and success with work bucks the statistics coming out of police stations. Leovy has been a longtime reporter for The Los Angeles Times, and in her 2006 blog The Homicide Report, she covered every murder in Los Angeles County in a single year. (In that year, for every one white woman murdered that year, one hundred black men were murdered.) She’s able to illustrate the complicated skeins of economics, society, and politics that have all had a hand in this epidemic, and by writing this book — which has already received excellent reviews in The New York Times and BookForum — she’s making a cogent argument for what we need to do better in America, and how we can get to a place where Black Lives Matter. I talked with her on the phone last week. … Read More

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The Forgotten Modernist: ‘The Country Road’ by Regina Ullmann

The forgotten Swiss poet and writer Regina Ullmann, whose story collection The Country Road has just been published by New Directions, was born in St. Gallen, Switzerland in 1884. She was “a dreamy, slow, difficult child” — according to one of only a few biographical entries in English — born to a comfortable family of Jewish origin. When her father died, Ullmann and her mother relocated to Munich, where she came to know a circle of avant-garde poets and thinkers, including Thomas Mann, who claimed her authorial voice to be “something holy,” and Rainer Maria Rilke, whose literary sponsorship helped keep her afloat in dark times. … Read More

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Longform You Have to Read: The Best of George Orwell

In a world where you have more options for satisfying longform reading than ever, your friends here at Flavorwire are taking the time once a week to highlight some of the best that journalism and longform has to offer. Whether they’re unified by topic, publication, writer, being classic pieces of work, or just by a general feeling, these articles all have one thing in common: they’re essential reading. This week, we’re looking at the best of George Orwell, who passed away sixty-five years ago on January 21, 1960. … Read More

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15 YA Writers on Their Favorite Book for Adults

TIME magazine recently ran a big package on “young adult” novels, in an attempt to define the nascent genre, giving us both “The 100 Best Young-Adult Books of All Time” and “17 Famous Writers on Their Favorite Young Adult Books.” Unfortunately, the canonical list failed to reflect the range of stories covered in young adult literature, ignoring current YA literature and calling any work with a teen protagonist “young adult.”

The “17 Famous Writers” list also suffered from a disconnect between the content and the buzzword; despite the headline, it seemed clear that authors were asked about “the books they loved as a child.” As a result, current young adult literature was roundly ignored. With that in mind, Flavorwire wanted to flip the script on TIME‘s “Famous Writers” list by asking some of our favorite contemporary young adult authors about their favorite books for grown-ups. The results, which feature responses that are both sly and serious, range from coming-of-age stories to science fiction adventures. … Read More

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30 Legendary Literary Mean Girls We Love to Hate

Literature loves a mean girl, an archenemy, or just an undermining frenemy. Let’s face it: this archetype is often (though not always) realized as a charming blonde who’s either a snob guarding her place against interlopers or a determined social climber. For every spunky heroine, she’s the prissy antagonist who scorns our protagonist’s rough ways, while her nimble feet fight for their place on the rungs of a given novel’s social ladder. She represents the apex of the idea that men can fight each other out in the open, but women are forced to be underhanded in their jockeying for alpha status. Her machinations make plots get thicker and tension ratchet up. Here’s a selection of literature’s most delightfully nasty mean girls. We love to hate… Read More

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James Patterson Is So Rich He Can Get $300,000 to Blow Up a Book

Is this officially news of the weird? Do you really “get” James Patterson, the prolific author/name behind the James Patterson… Read More

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