For a split-second, let’s talk about cities in prose. Maybe they’re not far yet remain unfamiliar; maybe they’re on the other side of the world. Maybe they’re cities from which we’re separated by time; maybe they’re cities that never existed at all. These three books chronicle scenes and observations from all of the above; they’re works that provoke and get under your skin.
#tobyreads: The Sinister and The Wild
I need to do a better job of reading William H. Gass’s fiction. I’ve enjoyed some of his nonfiction–specifically, On Being Blue and Finding a Form. But his fiction has, until recently, been a blank spot I’ve needed to fill in. I started The Tunnel ages ago and got bogged down; among my reading projects for this year is to finally finish it. On a trip to the west coast, I picked up his collection In the Heart of the Heart of the Country, […]
#tobyreads: Intrusions of the Miraculous and the Strange
I’ve spent a fair amount of time on trains in the last few weeks. There’s something appealing about passing through an unfamiliar landscape–or even in seeing how a familiar one has changed, either simply over time or through the effects of the present season. And there’s a part of me that would love to look out of the window and see something strange and uncanny in the distance; something unreal in the middle of the mundane. Though I haven’t played […]
#tobyreads: Getting International (and Interplanetary)
I’ve been slowly working my way through the works of Russian science fiction novelists Arkady and Boris Strugatsky–following Definitely Maybe and Roadside Picnic, I checked out Hard to Be a God (in part because I’d been reading about a recent film adaptation of it). It’s a deeply strange book, in the best way: though set in a world that resembled medieval Europe, it’s also a work of science fiction. The protagonist hails from a future Earth, and while he’s a participant in this society, he’s […]
#tobyreads: Voyages, Art, and Visions
After several months of being told by numerous smart folks that Will Chancellor’s A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall was fantastic–and running into its author at a fair amount of literary happenings around town–I cracked into it. And: ever read something that you’d wished you’d read earlier for any number of reasons? Well, Chancellor’s novel certainly falls into that category. First and foremost, it’s terrific, a story that covers everything from political unrest to a complex father/son dynamic to competitive water […]
#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.
#tobyreads: Fragmentary Lives, Transmitted Over the Air
In our latest week-in-reading column, we look at new novels from Ottessa Moshfegh, Sean Michaels, and Lynn Lurie.
#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.