Ryan Chapman’s debut novel, Riots I Have Known is one of the best funniest books of recent memory. Chapman writes with a blistering comedic voice, reminiscent of early Donald Antrim. Page after page, he deftly turns sentences into knives. I talked to Chapman over the phone in April 2019.
We’re pleased to publish an excerpt from Frances Badalamenti‘s novel I Don’t Blame You, out this week on Unsolicited Press. The publisher describes it as follows: “I Don’t Blame You is a young woman’s journey of losing her mother a mere two months before becoming a mother. It follows Ana through a year of going between her home in Portland and her mother’s home base in New Jersey as she battled cancer and as Ana grew a baby. The narrative begins with backstory around her mother’s early life being raised by a single mother in poverty in a Bronx tenement apartment and also her father’s early years in depression-era Brooklyn, both raised in challenging circumstances by Italian immigrants.”
Juliet the Maniac, the third book and first novel from Juliet Escoria, has been earning rave reviews since its release earlier this month. In his review of the book for NPR, Gabino Iglesias noted, “Juliet The Maniac is a heartfelt, raw, powerfully told story about surviving mental illness and learning to cope with inner demons. Escoria is a talented writer who’s not afraid to write her truth, even when it will scrape viciously at the souls of readers.” Robert Lopez spoke with Escoria about the lines between autofiction and memoir, how she developed her prose style, and personal mythologies.
Ilaria Tuti’s Flowers Over the Inferno is an action-packed thriller with a unique serial killer and a multilayered, deep, and incredibly entertaining main character battling at its core. Set in a quiet village surrounded by ancient woods under the shadow of the Italian Alps, this novel also possesses a superb sense of place and an atmosphere that places it head and shoulders above most of its contemporaries.
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.
The other day at the coffee shop, a young woman asked me what I was reading. When I told her it was a new biography of Nelson Algren, she drew a blank. It wasn’t until I mentioned Algren’s long affair with Simone de Beauvoir that her face lit up with recognition. This woman is well-read and has lived in Chicago a few years, but she’d never heard of arguably the city’s greatest chronicler. And she’s not alone. Though Algren won the very first National Book Award in 1950, and was considered a top tier writer for a decade or so thereafter, he’s rarely mentioned in the same breath as Hemingway or Faulkner anymore. I’m hoping that Colin Asher’s definitive portrait of the man might change that.
How does language speak truth to power? More specifically, how can language be used to rebel against power? The protagonists of Katherine Dunn’s three novels — 1969’s Attic, 1971’s Truck, and 1989’s Geek Love — are all positioned on the outskirts of society, sometimes by choice and sometimes not. (Dunn also wrote extensively about boxing: her 2009 book One Ring Circus collected her nonfiction about the sport, and her unfinished novel The Cut Man bears a title that alludes to the sport.) At the time of her death in 2016, Geek Love had been a cult classic for decades. In a lengthy article exploring its influence for Wired, Caitlin Roper called it “a dazzling oddball masterpiece.” She’s not wrong. It’s a novel that was nominated for both the National Book Award and the Bram Stoker Award, and that juxtaposition speaks volumes about Dunn’s aesthetic even if you haven’t read a word she’s written.
In our morning reading: interviews with Mira Jacob and Joanne Ramos, revisiting an early Sonic Youth album, and more.