Vol.1 Brooklyn’s August 2019 Book Preview

August brings with it hotter temperatures, a vision of a more humid life, and the slightest hint that fall might be on the way. August also brings with it a host of thought-provoking books, deftly-translated works from around the world, and imaginative fiction that riffs on contemporary concerns. Here’s a look at some of the books due out this month that have us most excited.

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Stories Echoing Into the Cosmos: A Review of Lindsey Drager’s “The Archive of Alternate Endings”

“What will survive of us is love,” Philip Larkin wrote in his poem “An Arundel Tomb.” It’s a phrase that comes to mind when thinking of mortality, a humanistic sentiment that’s both unnerving and reassuring. Lindsey Drager’s new novel, The Archive of Alternate Endings, also poses the question of what might be left behind after a life ends: legacies of the cultural, emotional, and familial sort are all part of the mix here. But Drager is also after something larger here, examining what might be left behind after the entirety of humanity has gone extinct. 

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Epitaph for Steve Cannon

Strong as the base of a mountain | There’s no countin’ | How many MCs have sprung from my fountain
– Rza, from Biochemical Equation

 

Looking back at the date and time when Steve Cannon died, I was reading a hefty tome titled A Poet’s Glossary, a section with entries for Elegy, Encomium, Endecha, Epicedium, Epitaph, and Epode. Steve telling me through cosmic avenues that he was dying or had died? Maybe.

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Coming of Age Amidst Sinister Experiments: A Review of Josh Malerman’s “Inspection”

Josh Malerman’s novel Inspection works on two levels. On the surface, it tells the story of two groups: one made up of boys and one made up of girls, who are both part of an experiment. With elements of science fiction, a subtext of mental games, and heavy doses of tension, the narrative partly behaves like a psychological thriller. However, there is much more at work under the surface. Inspection engages with complex themes: characters’ struggles to deny their instincts, the possibility of altering life’s regular progression in order to maximize intellectual development, and the effect of storytelling on human thoughts. When those elements take over, the novel fluctuates between a creepy science fiction adventure, a bloody coming-of-age story, and a horror novel. Malerman, a literary chameleon whose previous novels include the post-apocalyptic-novel-turned-cultural-phenomenon Birdbox, the bizarre and dreamlike Western Unbury Carol, and the strange and haunting Black Mad Wheel, offers here his best effort yet and cements himself as one of the most versatile voices in contemporary dark literature. 

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Reimagining First Contact: A Review of Cadwell Turnbull’s “The Lesson”

Cadwell Turnbull’s novel The Lesson is a solid entry in the reliable genre of novels telling the story of humanity’s first contact with extraterrestrials. What helps to make it stand out even more is its intense humanism: Turnbull’s characters fervently debate religion and philosophy even before the aliens show up, and there’s a generosity that he extends to nearly all of his characters that help accentuate his themes of community. Turnbull also benefits from the specificity of this narrative: there aren’t a whole lot of science fiction novels set in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but Turnbull uses the setting to his advantage, furthering his chosen themes as this novel’s plot deepens.

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A World a Few Dimensions Over: A Conversation with Sarah Rose Etter

The Book of X by Sarah Rose Etter is a new book by Columbus-based independent press, Two Dollar Radio. If you are actively reading literature online these days, you should be aware of both Etter’s work and the press, and are probably already be excited for this book. 

The novel is about Cassie, who grows up with her mother, father, and brother. Her father and brother make their living by harvesting meat in the meat quarry that exists behind their family homestead. Though her father and brother work in the quarry, Cassie has an interest in it, bordering on obsession. But this buries the lede of the novel, or rather it’s central conceit, which is that Cassie, like her mother, and her mother’s mother before her, was born with her stomach twisted into a knot. 

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Shame and Sex Goggles 

Everything is about sex, except sex, which is about power. 

In February of this year, when I first read The Trouble with Men by David Shields and Getting Off by Erica Garza, this sentence kept running through my mind. I felt sure it was Foucault. Part of my grad school experience, maybe, or an epigraph from somewhere or other, but definitely Foucault. It’s such a Foucault thing to say, right? Did he ever write a single sentence that wasn’t tangled somehow with sex or power or both? 

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Six Ridiculous Questions: Leland Cheuk

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.

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