The guiding principle of Six Ridiculous Questions is that life is filled with ridiculousness. And questions. That only by giving in to these truths may we hope to slip the surly bonds of reality and attain the higher consciousness we all crave. (Eh, not really, but it sounded good there for a minute.) It’s just. Who knows? The ridiculousness and question bits, I guess. Why six? Assonance, baby, assonance.
Though it’s largely set in an unnamed Latin American nation, Idra Novey’s new novel Those Who Knew abounds with moments that will sound familiar to readers in the United States. There’s a seemingly-idealistic male political candidate whose upstanding veneer conceals bleaker impulses; there’s the fact that said candidate’s treatment of women places him one potential scandal away from (justifiable) ruin. Novey’s novel abounds with legislators compromised by their ties to industry, artists from the upper class relentlessly mocking the foibles of the wealthy, and a landscape in which the political and the intimately personal are inexorably connected.
The stories found in Marian Womack‘s collection Lost Objects haunt the reader from a number of angles. Whether she’s writing about climate change and environmental catastrophes writ large or about subtler and more personal betrayals, Womack creates worlds in which the ground is constantly shifting–sometimes both metaphorically and literally. Her fiction blends a fantastic sense of place with a haunting glimpse of the near future; it’s work that’s difficult to shake–which is the point. I asked Womack some questions about her work via email, covering everything from the science of her stories to the role of translation in speculative fiction.
In our morning reading: thoughts on books by Wayétu Moore and Jasmin B. Frelih, a new issue of Midnight Breakfast, and more.
In our afternoon reading: a look at the new Beastie Boys retrospective, interviews with Akwaeke Emezi and Steve Reich, and more.
And here we go, deeper into fall. Daylight Savings Time looms this weekend, making for shorter days and longer nights; colder temperatures beckon. Does that make it the right time of the year to curl up with a book? Well, sure–but is there ever not a good time of year for that? Among the books we’re most excited about this month are bold riffs on detective fiction, genre-defying narratives, and works of fiction and nonfiction that put politics and culture into sharp relief. Here are some November books (plus a pair from the final days of October) that have caught our eye.
The Governesses by Anne Serre teases its readers with elements of allegory and fairy story. Three young women stroll through the gates of an enormous manor house which is the kingdom of Monsieur and Madame Austier, and home to a cluster of little maids and boys. Eléonore, Laura and Inès are the titular governesses and extraordinarily lacking in those roles. It is immediately clear to even the densest of readers that no one would hire this trio to watch over guinea pigs, let alone children. As the narrator tells us – “You would even wager there was something fishy going on.”
White Dancing Elephants, the debut collection from Chaya Bhuvaneswar, is a powerful literary statement in its stylistic range, its willingness to engage with powerful themes, and its geographic and temporal shifts. Whether she’s writing about characters grappling with their own mortality and that of the people closest to them or veering into more fantastical realms, Bhuvaneswar roots her work in recognizable (and often wrenching) emotion, making for powerful and compelling fiction. I talked with her about the collection’s themes, her upcoming work, and more.