The Zinophile: Where Proust, Casinos, and Maps of Thoughts Converge

A little less than two years ago, I went to the Center for Fiction to see Anne Carson read. The piece she read there was called The Albertine Workout, and it found Carson applying her considerable skill in literary scholarship to the works of Marcel Proust–specifically, the character Albertine in À la recherche du temps perdu. The piece consisted of a series of paragraphs, some very short, some not so much, along with a series of appendices. Besides its inquiry […]

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The Zinophile: Histories Candid, Surreal, and Unsettling

The latest installment in Sarah McCarry’s generally essential chapbook series Guillotine comes from Sarah Gerard. The title here is BFF, and the focus is on a now-estranged friendship between Gerard and an unnamed friend of hers. As with all of Gerard’s work, the prose is immediate, intimate, and harrowing–closer to the rapid-fire narration of her novel Binary Star than her earlier chapbook Things I Told My Mother. It’s written as a direct address to the friend in question, but it […]

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#tobyreads: Distant Cities and Haunted Narratives

For a split-second, let’s talk about cities in prose. Maybe they’re not far yet remain unfamiliar; maybe they’re on the other side of the world. Maybe they’re cities from which we’re separated by time; maybe they’re cities that never existed at all. These three books chronicle scenes and observations from all of the above; they’re works that provoke and get under your skin.

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#tobyreads: The Sinister and The Wild

I need to do a better job of reading William H. Gass’s fiction. I’ve enjoyed some of his nonfiction–specifically, On Being Blue and Finding a Form. But his fiction has, until recently, been a blank spot I’ve needed to fill in. I started The Tunnel ages ago and got bogged down; among my reading projects for this year is to finally finish it. On a trip to the west coast, I picked up his collection In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, […]

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The Zinophile: Narratives of the Past and the Present

As New York’s all-too-briefspring begins to transform into summer, aided and abetted by an abundance of humidity, I’ve opted for the only logical response, and made with the reading of zines. That seems to fit, right? This particular edition of the column will focus on two: one collection of poetry, and one issue that includes an host of prose and poetry centered around a particular topic.

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#tobyreads: Intrusions of the Miraculous and the Strange

I’ve spent a fair amount of time on trains in the last few weeks. There’s something appealing about passing through an unfamiliar landscape–or even in seeing how a familiar one has changed, either simply over time or through the effects of the present season. And there’s a part of me that would love to look out of the window and see something strange and uncanny in the distance; something unreal in the middle of the mundane. Though I haven’t played […]

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#tobyreads: Getting International (and Interplanetary)

I’ve been slowly working my way through the works of Russian science fiction novelists Arkady and Boris Strugatsky–following Definitely Maybe and Roadside Picnic, I checked out Hard to Be a God (in part because I’d been reading about a recent film adaptation of it). It’s a deeply strange book, in the best way: though set in a world that resembled medieval Europe, it’s also a work of science fiction. The protagonist hails from a future Earth, and while he’s a participant in this society, he’s […]

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#tobyreads: Voyages, Art, and Visions

After several months of being told by numerous smart folks that Will Chancellor’s A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall was fantastic–and running into its author at a fair amount of literary happenings around town–I cracked into it. And: ever read something that you’d wished you’d read earlier for any number of reasons? Well, Chancellor’s novel certainly falls into that category. First and foremost, it’s terrific, a story that covers everything from political unrest to a complex father/son dynamic to competitive water […]

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