#tobyreads: Diagrams of Lives

I’d been meaning to read Beth Steidle’s The Static Herd for a while now. It’s a slim book, but a powerful one, juxtaposing scenes from a life with medical terminology ominous in its context and implications, diagrams, and illustrations. There are questions raised here of family, of mortality, and of things that go unnoticed; what it all adds up to, in the end, is a kind of impressionistic portrait of several interwoven lives, nestled alongside a meditation on observation and interpretation.

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#tobyreads: Brief Notes on a Rupert Thomson Novel

I started reading the novels of Rupert Thomson a few years ago, based on the fact that Maud Newton had very good things to say about his work. I wasn’t disappointed–his novels Death of a Murderer, The Book of Revelation, and Divided Kingdom are all atmospheric, morally-charged fictions that continue to haunt me now, years after I first read them.

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#tobyreads: Space Travel is Boring

So: The Book of Strange New Things. I’d been curious about Michael Faber’s new novel for a while, and cracked into it earlier this week. The setup is simple and almost archetypal: in the near future, a man named Peter is set on a mission to minister to a group of aliens on a distant planet, while his beloved wife Beatrice stays behind on an Earth in which existing economic and environmental tensions are ratcheting up even higher. The terrain over which […]

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#tobyreads: Some Brief Notes on M.R. James

Over the summer, I made the trip down to Gowanus to visit the Morbid Anatomy Museum. It was something I’d been meaning to do for a while; I’d contributed to their Kickstarter campaign, and thus had a paid-for admission waiting for me as well. It’s a great space, with a particularly fascinating area of focus, and I’m really excited about how it will evolve in the coming years. Also: the cafe and gift shop is pretty excellent, with an excellent array […]

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#tobyreads: Social Change and Meditations on Society

I’d had a copy of Claudia Rankine’s Don’t Let Me Be Lonely: An Americal Lyric on my to-read shelf for far too long. Given the rave reviews her new book Citizen: An American Lyric has been getting, I thought that it might be wise to give this earlier work of hers a read. And thus: a new entry in the category of “books I should have read months ago, if not years ago.” Which is one of the dangers of reading: the regret […]

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#tobyreads: Protests and Discontent, Then, Now, and Soon

When Lauren Beukes is on point, she unsettles like few other writers. Her novel Zoo City is both metaphorically and literally terrifying. In it, animals become tethered to people because of guilt; separating the two leads to horrific, catastrophic events, and society becomes subtly and bleakly changed as a result. The Shining Girls brought together the story of a time-traveling serial killer with a resonant portrayal of Chicago in the 1990s. I haven’t yet read her new novel Broken Monsters, but a number of smart readers I […]

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#tobyreads: Two From the (Fiction) Longlist

I spent a lot of time last week involved in events that related to the Brooklyn Book Festival: talking with Luke B. Goebel, watching excellent readings by the likes of Dmitry Samarov and Megan Stielstra, and hearing a deeply reworked version of Karl Ove Knausgård’s opus. In the midst of all of this came the announcement of the National Book Award fiction longlist, several of which I had already been meaning to read. I’ll be wrangling with two of these books […]

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