In James Brubaker’s new novel, the titular Taxidermist’s Catalog is a long-rumored lost and final LP by folk musician Jim Toop, the sort of album that haunts fans’ existences, like a full-band recording of Springsteen’s Nebraska. The Taxidermist’s Catalog “is, famously, an album that was never properly completed” before Toop, at age 27, wandered into the desert to die — or was murdered, or, if fan sites are to be believed, was abducted by aliens. The “hardline conspiracy theorists” populating fan messageboards scrutinize Toop’s pre-disappearance records for contextual clues to support increasingly odd assertions, with his disappearance in 1977 the only certainty. The online Toop community’s many and sundried conclusions often include a woman named Angela, presumably of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, who is mentioned by name in his early work. A cottage industry emerges as Toop fans descend on the town, where “they go to restaurants and bars, acting all casual as they ask obtusely worded questions about UFO’s and cults and whatever other bullshit they’re interested in” regarding the swirling rumors surrounding the musician’s disappearance, and townspeople, much like those in Cornish, New Hampshire prior to the death of J.D. Salinger, do what they can to keep their secrets secure.
Whether she’s navigating the secrets people keep from one another or venturing into the world of the uncanny, Jac Jemc has established a particularly haunting corner of fiction where she explores the unpredictable and disquieting. This week brings with it the release of False Bingo, her second collection of short fiction, and one which demonstrates Jemc’s impressive range as a writer. I talked with her about the collection’s origins, her work in both the supernatural and realistic, and caught a glimpse of what might be next from her.
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 great Polish postpunk band Trupa Trupa begin their tour of the United States this week, and will be playing at Union Pool on Tuesday. We interviewed them earlier this year about their new album Of the Sun, and we’re thrilled to be premiering the video for the title song today.
Noah Cicero has written several books. I find great comfort in Noah’s ouvre, in the sense that he has never seemed interested in limiting himself to a particular type of story. The Human War was an influential, early-millennial beat-style meditation that unsarcastically grapples with the pointlessness of war, while Go to Work… is basically a political action-thriller, replete with government conspiracies and a firefight. There’s the philosophical discussion of Buddhism in Blood-Soaked Buddha/Hard Earth Pascal. There’s both lost-love poetry (Bipolar Cowboy) and bleak observational poetry (Nature Documentary). There’s a menagerie of stories, snippets, eBooks, collected works, all testaments to Noah boldly exploring new territory without any sense of self-doubt or obligation to construct some kind of “brand.” And so now there’s Give it to the Grand Canyon, which is a deeply personal, plainly written travelogue about living and working in the Grand Canyon National Park. From the casual discussions of how one goes about getting a job there (they will hire anyone) to how one goes about getting to the job there (a lot of driving, no matter where you’re coming from) to how one goes about, well, doing the job there (serving ice cream to disappointed tourists), Noah’s story is a relentlessly realistic collection of vignettes. What I mean is that there are no twists, no manufactured dramas, no heroic deeds, but instead everything – from the unadultered danger and beauty of the canyon itself to the vague interpersonal relationships among the staff – is written as it is experienced, is remarked upon as it happens, is left to fizzle or ferment without any constructed symbolism or structure.
Besides the promise of cooler weather, pumpkin spice everything, and sweaters on the rise, what does October have to offer? If you’re looking for new books to read, the answer is “plenty.” This month brings with it candid and harrowing memoirs, stunning short fiction, and expansive novels — a fantastic array of literary work to carry you into the autumn. Here’s a look at some of our most-anticipated books for the month.
“Tomorrow, yes, I will leave this house, I’ll abandon the village and the life here, all the faces that I love I will leave.”
“Tilting” is putting it gently. Colette Fellous’s world, detailed through a collage of memory, is actually thoroughly ruptured and shattered amid a trio of losses. Translated from French to English by acclaimed literary translator Sophie Lewis, This Tilting World is Fellous’s first book to appear in English. This author of more than twenty novels in French deviates from conventional form to take us on an impressionistic journey through and beyond the comforts of nostalgia, in a memoir dedicated to her decision to move away from her native Tunisia following the deaths of her father and a dear friend, as well as the 2015 Sousse attacks.
When I was a kid, my family spent two weeks every summer on Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island. We went there first when I was ten, and after that we went every summer until my sophomore year of college. At first, it was heaven—rocky beaches at the bottom of cliffs, sand beaches got to on paths that led past the ruins of an old mansion, ice cream in the afternoons, fresh corn. But when my parents divorced, it became less like heaven—parents taking turns, trying to (poorly) recreate a sense of summer joy; my mother with her new boyfriend; my father silent, mourning. And being on the island itself, an island where you had to make reservations months and months in advance to get your car on the ferry, an island where you couldn’t leave until the return ferry reservation came due, an island where your friends were far away and it felt like life was happening without you, the island became claustrophobic, almost panic inducing: what if we needed to leave and couldn’t get a spot on the ferry? We’d be trapped there forever, our eyes fixed always on the horizon.