What happens when autofiction meets doom metal? That’s the question Lee Klein poses in his new book Neutral Evil ))), inspired by a visit to a Sunn 0))) concert in Philadelphia in early 2017. As the book’s narrator takes in the concert’s atmosphere, he ponders questions of family, safety, and aging — a fascinating glimpse into a particular headspace surrounded by a fascinating sonic space.
Michael J. Seidlinger’s new novel Dreams of Being is simultaneously a haunting story of depression, an ode to delicious food, and one of the most unsettling takes on the creative process I’ve read in a long time. In telling the story of the bond between a novice filmmaker and an expert in sushi, Seidlinger has created a fantastic book on isolation and frustration; even better, it’s a memorably immersive read. I spoke with Seidlinger about the book’s genesis, its literary lineage, and more.
Sometime in February, Alexandra Naughton met up with Amy Berkowitz at a cafe in San Francisco to talk about the re-release of Berkowitz’s book Tender Points (an incredible and extremely readable lyric essay on the topic of trauma and chronic pain) by Nightboat Books.
The pair sat at an outside picnic table in San Francisco, before the reality of the pandemic hit the United States, and discussed what’s changed since Tender Points was first published in 2015, zines, the roles of trauma and disability in literature, what Berkowitz and Naughton are working on these days, and the birds in their immediate surroundings.
Exacting and lyrically prescient, Cynthia Atkins’s Still-Life With God presents God as gods, as sun, moon, and stars, yes, but also as God encompassing all aspects of the self: selves created and molded into whatever form we desire. This collection finds Atkins finding faith and spirituality in unusual places and things, in and within inanimate objects, like Cracker Jacks, the Internet, and a medicine cabinet. Here God is a shock jock, an alibi, and imaginary friends. Employing beautiful concisions suffused with allegory and metaphor, Atkins offers poem after delectable poem, the sweetest of candies with dark and satisfying centers. Atkins guides us through a journey in search of the divine in all things, whether embodied by our bodily wreckage or the machines of our madness. Moreover, Atkins is skilled at depicting the chaos and joy of human existence, simultaneously. Still-Life with God delights in all contradictions.
JD Scott‘s new collection Moonflower, Nightshade, All the Hours of the Day is a quietly devastating powerhouse of a book. Scott’s characters grapple with horrific traumas; they also encounter immortal chinchillas and globe-spanning malls. These are stories that occupy familiar spaces but also tie in with mythic resonances; the end result, then, is a book that feels both familiar and subtly groundbreaking. I talked with Scott via email about the genesis of their book and finding the balance of the quotidian and the revelatory.
In this stunning debut, award-winning Canadian writer Souvankham Thammavongsa lays bare the plights of people living in the margins in 14 singularly impressive stories. Most of the stories in this collection center on the lives of Lao immigrants, taking a leaf out of the life of a writer who was born in a Lao refugee camp in Thailand before emigrating with her parents to Canada.
What does May have in store for us, as far as books are concerned? A number of essay collections from some of our favorite writers, for one thing. Throw in some suspenseful novels, a welcome debut, and a book with an introduction from one of our favorite musicians and you have a combination for some terrific reading. Here are some of the books that caught our eye this month.
There’s so little to be happy about these days that when something comes along that sparks some joy we cling to it like a life raft. The Tiger King didn’t do shit for me but I couldn’t put Sam McPheeters’ book Mutations down. I tore through it in a day and a half, skipping meals and work along the way. I doubt I would’ve read it any slower if there was no plague outside my door or if we had a human being for a president, it’s that good.