Books of the Month: June 2023 Edition
It’s June, and we’re in a pensive mood. Sometimes that can mean thinking about questions of nature, society, and isolation; sometimes it means considering questions of art, artistic intent, and how we view ourselves. Here are ten recommendations for the month that cover a wide thematic ground, and might well leave you thinking about the ways you and others interact with the world, both natural and built.
Sounds of an old house: a haunting memoir
Sounds of an old house: a haunting memoir
by J. Ashley-Smith
I’ve moved house maybe fifteen, twenty times since I left home, but my parents have never moved. They still live in the house I was born and grew up in, on the outskirts of Cambridge in the UK.
It’s the only detached house on a street of Edwardian terraces and townhouses made of bricks that must once have been a chalky yellow, but are now grey with age and the soot of a hundred years-worth of car exhaust fumes. White and pink rosebushes line the short path from the pavement and trail around the front door, partially obscuring the name etched into the sandstone lintel: Rose Holme. It’s a small, simple, beautiful house. The inside front door has panes of green and red stained glass, and blue glass corner-pieces with white stars. In the afternoon, sunlight shines through them and paints coloured shapes on the walls and floor of the entrance hall. The house smells of books and old wood, of the drying hop vines my mum hangs from the bannisters.
Matthew Robert Cooper on the Literary Inspirations Behind Eluvium’s “(Whirring Marvels In) Consensus Reality”
I’m a longtime admirer of the music Matthew Robert Cooper has made, whether it’s as Eluvium or under his own name — or one of several other aliases and projects that have added to his impressive discography over the years. Eluvium’s new album (Whirring Marvels In) Consensus Reality represents something of a shift for Cooper, who was dealing with health issues that involved changing the way he wrote. I spoke with Cooper about the literary influences underlying this new album, his thoughts on music and technology, and what he’s been reading lately.
Sarah Gerard on “The Butter House” and the Challenges of Writing About Cats
I’d been eager to read something new from Sarah Gerard ever since I finished their 2020 novel True Love. Imagine my happiness when, earlier this year, a package arrived at my apartment containing a new chapbook by Gerard, titled The Butter House. Have I mentioned that I’m a huge fan of single-story chapbooks? Short version: I am. And The Butter House, about a human couple living in Florida and the cats that surround them, is both an engaging read and part of what seems like a literary trend for 2023: humans imagining the lives of animals. I spoke with Gerard about the book’s origins and what sounds like a truly singular release party, among other topics.
“Horror Has Always Been Something That People Are Drawn To”: An Interview With David Peak
David Peak has been writing and publishing novels, short stories and essays online and in print for the last 20 or so years. His books focus on the moment when people recognizable in our daily lives meet the unknown and are either torn asunder by it, or are transformed into something horrible and beautiful. Last year Peak published The World Below (Apocalypse Party), a midwestern gothic story of two long-feuding families, brought into conflict again when their children are caught up in an ritualistic occult murder mystery.
The Real Stories of Fictional Bands: An Interview With Aug Stone
In an era where nearly every detail about every piece of music recorded in the last couple of decades is widely available, what does it mean when an entire band’s body of work turns elusive? That’s the question at the heart of Aug Stone‘s new novel The Ballad of Buttery Cake Ass, the story of the search for the history of a cult early-80s band — and the reasons why their music went unheralded in their day. I spoke with Stone about the making of the novel, creating lengthy discographies for fictional artists, and the challenges of writing convincingly about nonexistent musicians.
Analog Media Rewrites Reality: Talking “Head Cleaner” With David James Keaton
Talking with David James Keaton about his sprawling, hard-to-describe books has become a semi-regular occurrence around these parts, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. His new novel Head Cleaner follows the staff of a video store as they find themselves on the verge of a bizarre discovery about physical media and experiencing a phenomenon that evokes time loops at their most paranoia-inducing. I chatted with Keaton about the novel’s origins, its ties to his other work, and movies that could change the world.