Books

Maps Reimagine American Cities as Tolkien-esque Fantasylands

We all have our escapist fantasies. Some might live them out by going on, say, a Quilting or Saw-themed cruise (same crowd, really), some might steal away to an idyllic countryside Boot and Breakfast; others escape simply by re-imagining the places in which we live — and of which we so often tire — as fantastical settings. For example, in just about every city, it’s quite easy to translate Lord of the Rings locations to various neighborhoods: any city’s stagnant body of water/ mafia dumping-ground is obviously the Dead Marshes, any city’s mayoral office could be the Eye of Sauron, and any junior high could be that muddy mess where the Uruk-Hai are made. … Read More

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“No Comment”: Getting to Know the Shadowy Oddsmaker for the Nobel Prize in Literature

The Nobel Prize in Literature will be announced tomorrow. Who will win? Ngugi Wa Thiong’o (7/2)? Haruki Murakami (9/2)? Bob Dylan (25/1)? I’m pretty sure it will be Adonis (10/1), but, then again, I’ve been saying that for years. Recent statements, like this from one of the judges, suggest you’d do well to put your money on an African or Asian writer. Or someone who has never enrolled in an MFA course in creative writing. Or just anyone who isn’t American. … Read More

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“They’re People Like You and Me”: Talking With Debut Author Diane Cook About Short Story Collection ‘Man V. Nature’

In Diane Cook’s daring debut story collection, Man V. Nature, mothers lose children only to find them again, leaving both irrevocably altered; men cast adrift on a lifeboat suffer mid-life crises; and young, wild boys fight for survival in an untamed forest of obstacle courses. Each beautifully rendered story is full of peril and, often, tenderness, featuring regular folks attempting to navigate their uncanny worlds. Layered with pitch-black humor, each story is a fight for survival, and together they feel like notes sent from the edge of a place just familiar enough to rattle you and just strange enough to catch you off guard. Writer Karolina Waclawiak, also familiar with the edge of the surreal in her books How to Get Into the Twin Palms and the forthcoming Invaders, talked with Cook, a former producer for This American Life, about what went into writing Man V. Nature. … Read More

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Marilynne Robinson’s ‘Lila’ Is the New ‘The Sound and the Fury’

Marilynne Robinson’s new novel, Lila, like her last two, is set in the fictional town of Gilead, Iowa, sometime in the mid-20th century. And, like her last two novels, it is a debilitatingly beautiful study of faith and existential resilience. But unlike the last two novels, Lila’s title character is an idiot. (I’ll explain.) She also happens to be one of the most stunning creations in recent American fiction. … Read More

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Get to Know 25-Year-Old Emma Cline, Whose Manson-Influenced Book Just Sold For Big Money

Aspiring writers, one and all, do you need a new impossibly young writer with a big book deal to resent?… Read More

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The “Cool Girl” Speech May Be a Meme, But It’s Not the Point of ‘Gone Girl’

If you haven’t read Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl or seen the David Fincher-directed, Ben Affleck-starring film adaptation since its release on Friday, you may still know all about Gone Girl‘s “Cool Girl” speech, solely because of the Internet, especially if your social media presence includes a Tumblr. [Spoilers ahead, obviously.] … Read More

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50 Cultural Icons on Their Favorite Books

Everybody loves a good book. Yes, everybody — even the rich, famous and culturally relevant. And since there’s nothing better than a book recommendation from someone you already idolize, why not check out which ones they count as their favorites? Maybe you’ll wind up finding out that you have even more in common with Lady Gaga than you thought. Click through to find out which books your favorite cultural icons, from Bill Murray to Joan Didion to Nas, love best — and get to padding that reading… Read More

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Hitler in Brooklyn: On Martin Amis’ ‘The Zone of Interest’

Martin Amis’ new Holocaust novel, The Zone of Interest, is not about Adolf Hitler. Until, weirdly, it is. But for the first 295 pages, it is a difficult yet captivating book set in Auschwitz, one that reflects the atrocity of the Final Solution through the lusts and petty jealousies of Nazi officials. What begins as a romance between Angelus “Golo” Thomsen, fictional nephew of Hitler’s secretary, and Hannah Doll, wife of the pathetic and monstrous Kommandant, ends as a complicated moral tale that reveals the full spectrum of complicity in the Nazi horror. And it does all of this without once uttering the name “Hitler.” Or at least not until an afterword, fronted by a grainy image of the Führer, where Amis explains everything about the book that he doesn’t need to explain. … Read More

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“It’s Dangerous to Be a Young Black Male in the United States”: Jesmyn Ward on ‘Men We Reaped’ and Ferguson

Towards the end of Jesmyn Ward’s memoir, Men We Reaped, she discusses some of the statistics for “what it means to be Black and poor in the South.” The facts are stark: in Mississippi, one of the poorest states in the union, where Ward grew up and lives today, 23% live below the poverty level; the median income is $34,473; studies have shown that poverty and lack of education can contribute to as many deaths as heart attacks, strokes, and lung cancer in the US. The state ranks last in the nation on the UN’s Human Development index, which measures life expectancy, literacy, education, and standard of living. … Read More

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