Books

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10 Must-Read Books for June

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Always the sleeper month, poised on the edge of beach weather, June often yields the best mix of diverting and satisfying reads. And, this year, they come in pairs. Take the absurdist visions of Etgar Keret and Milan Kundera, or the deep internet excavations of Joshua Cohen and Jamie Bartlett, or the debut fictions of Mia Alvar and Rebecca Dinerstein… June of 2015 strikes the perfect balance ahead of the autumnal slog through literary… Read More

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Life-Affirming Words of Wisdom from Walt Whitman

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Brooklyn bard Walt Whitman, born in Long Island on this day, is the subject of a new opera by composer Matthew Aucoin called Crossing. “Whitman is a figure that I have been fascinated by for a long time, and his personal journey, his decision to drop everything and volunteer in the hospitals for three or four years [post Leaves of Grass], and the mystery of that,” said the artist. “What was he really doing beforehand? Was he in some sort of middle-life crisis? What were his motives?” Whitman’s life and words continue to provoke questions and inspire readers. The poet’s humanist, transcendentalist approach to relationships, nature, beauty, and the soul is life-affirming — as evidenced in these quotes and fragments of his poetry.
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In the Era of the Easy Feminist Fairy-Tale Remix, Angela Carter’s ‘The Bloody Chamber’ Is More Vital Than Ever

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I was worried about re-reading The Bloody Chamber, the late British writer Angela Carter’s most famous work, a collection of short stories based on the Western fairy-tale canon that Penguin Classics has just released in a deluxe edition to commemorate what would have been the author’s 75th birthday. Originally published in 1979, it preceded the recent wave of fairy-tale remixing by roughly three decades, and I feared that the Internet’s endless Disney Princess variations might have robbed Carter’s stories of the potency they possessed when I first read them, over a decade ago. Specifically, would the insistently feminist tone of so much contemporary reappropriation render The Bloody Chamber‘s own celebrated view of gender in our culture’s most cherished bedtime stories too obvious to be thrilling?
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Are Literary Awards Biased Against Books About Women?

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The VIDA count has exposed persistent gender disparities in prestigious literary publications’ bylines — but what happens once books are published, sent into the world, and made ready for critical consumption and evaluation? Does a bias remain? Novelist Nicola Griffith set out to answer to this question by looking at the genders of both author and subject in the Pulitzer Prize, the Man Booker Prize, the National Book Award, the National Book Critics’ Circle Award, the Hugo Award (for science fiction and fantasy) and the Newbery Medal (for children’s literature) in the past decade and a half. And what she discovered goes even deeper than a byline… Read More

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Flavorwire Premiere: Watch the Acid Western Book Trailer for Colin Winnette’s ‘Haints Stay’

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Now that its arrival is only a matter of days away (June 2nd), it’s safe to say that Colin Winnette’s Haints Stay — a deconstructed Western praised by Sam Lipsyte, Saeed Jones, and Lindsay Hunter, among many others, and published by the unimpeachable Two Dollar Radio — is the most anticipated independent novel of the summer. And, frankly, it may be the most anticipated American independent novel since Sarah Gerard’s Binary Star (which we told you about several times and praised on its way to widespread acclaim). Certainly we’ve been thinking about Winnette’s book since January, when I called it “a work by an assured writer who is on the verge of something important” — Haints Stay proves he’s no longer on the verge.
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GONE GIRL, from left: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, 2014. ph: Merrick Morton/TM & copyright ©20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved/courtesy Everett Collection

The Inevitable Disappointment of “This Summer’s ‘Gone Girl'”

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For as long as there have been reviews and blurbs and publicists, the phrase “This summer’s [insert name of last year’s bestseller]” has been beguiling — and assaulting — readers from the catalogs and roundups that roll out around this time each year. In the aughts, for instance, wave after wave of empowered, transformative female characters set the standard against which other novels were marketed. In 2004 and 2005, any frothy, sartorial saga that hinted at the indignities of working as an underling was “This summer’s The Devil Wears Prada.” In 2006 and 2007, tales of ass-kicking punkettes on the fringes of society were inevitably “This summer’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.” In 2008 and 2009, any woebegone memoir of triumph-through-travel was “This summer’s Eat, Pray, Love.” In 2009 and 2010, any injustices in small-town America were “This summer’s The Help.” And since then, every novel that hints at an unreliable narrator, that presupposes that marriage is not all hand-holding and dream-sharing, that lets a lady go off the rails and takes us along for the ride, is, of course, “This summer’s Gone… Read More