Emma Cline’s “The Guest” Shows the Danger of Using Powerful Men as an ‘Emergency Exit’

"The Guest"

We’re all familiar with the coupling of rich, older men and women half their age. It’s the troubled, age-old dynamic you can find in Hollywood, politics, and everywhere in-between. It’s also the sort of relationship 22-year-old Alex tries to game in Emma Cline’s latest novel, The Guest. Alex’s life is spiraling out of her control—a complete nosedive—until 50-something year-old Simon arrives as “the emergency exit she had always suspected would present itself.” As in: When she has no other options, she knows she can take the predatory interest older men have toward her and flip it for her advantage. 

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An Unexpected Urban Exile: Murzban F. Shroff’s “Waiting For Jonathan Koshy” Reviewed

"Waiting for Jonathan Koshy"

Through Waiting For Jonathan KoshyShroff presents a fascinating tale of characters who exist at the margins of a cosmopolitan city like Mumbai, a city undergoing changes from changing its name (Bombay to Mumbai) to landscapes because of construction. The city is a center of migration for people from all parts of India. Jonathan, the titular character, himself is from the state of Kerala and is exiled to a place like Mumbai. Other characters take various jobs in order to be assimilated into the culture of the big city. Prashant is a writer who writes scripts for other people while Jonathan does all sorts of jobs.

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Tribal Traditions, Outside Influences, and Conflicted Identities: A Review of D.M. Rowell’s “Never Name the Dead”

"Never Name the Dead"

D.M. Rowell (Koyh Mi O Boy Dah) has brought two worlds together in her debut mystery novel, Never Name the Dead. Rowell connects her story from Silicon Valley to Kiowa tribal lands in Oklahoma through her lead character, Mae “Mud” Sawpole. The novel, the first in a series, was recently nominated for the Mary Higgins Clark Award by Mystery Writers of America.  Mae runs a PR firm in Silicon Valley, but a strange call from her grandfather James leads her to catch a plane and head back home to her tribal homeland. While a lot of the novel shows Mae busy at work, working the phones back in California, the real heart of the book is her amateur detective skills in Oklahoma. 

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Bygone Mythology in a Haunted Future: An Interview With Cassandra Khaw

Cassandra Khaw

The setting of Cassandra Khaw’s new book The Salt Grows Heavy is one steeped in mythology and atmosphere. The landscape through which its central characters — a mermaid and a plague doctor — move is one that’s been through unspeakable trauma, and yet still has room to reveal new horrors. (One of those is a cult centered around resurrection.) I spoke with Khaw about the creation of this new book, how it relates to their other work, and what’s next.

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Books of the Month: May 2023 Edition

May 2023 Books

How, exactly, did we get to May already? Normally, we’d make a joke here about the collapse of time and space or something similarly esoteric, but the hour is at hand when we should get to the recommending of books. And so here are some book recommendations for the month we’re in — and, if you’re behind on your reading, these books aren’t going anywhere.

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Doomsday and the Nuclear Family:  A Review of “Half-Life of a Secret” by Emily Strasser

"Half-Life of a Secret" cover

“I felt … drawn to the desert where fire blossomed in silence, 

sprouting from a great, featureless plain that 

could have been the end of the world or the beginning.”

Emily Strasser’s Half-Life of a Secret is ostensibly about unraveling the mystery of her grandfather George, who was a scientist at Oak Ridge.  In George’s time, Oak Ridge was a secret city, lesser-known than its sister Los Alamos, but built to do the same work—the construction of nuclear arms.  George is, in turn, a man of secrets, one who was an intelligent, high-ranking official but also suffered from mental illness.  Strasser attempts to uncover his history in order to better understand him as the patriarch of her family as well as a person who participated in the construction of the bomb that killed upwards of 135,000 people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  

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DIY, Duets, and Crop Circles: Talking “The Perfect Golden Circle” With Benjamin Myers

Benjamin Myers

This week brings with it the paperback release of one of my favorite novels of 2022: Benjamin Myers’s The Perfect Golden Circle. Set in 1989, the novel follows two men, Calvert and Redbone, as they embark on a Quixotic quest to create a series of detailed patterns across rural landscapes in England. Over the course of their novel, their efforts invoke an array of grand ideas, from the bond between two disparate people to the changing sociopolitical landscape around the duo. Plus: crop circles. I spoke with Myers about the origins of this novel, its relationship to the rest of his bibliography, and the role of music in his books.

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“A Series of Escalating Dares”: Dan Sinker and Joe Meno on Their New Collaboration “Question Mark, Ohio”

"Question Mark, Ohio"

I’ve long followed the work of both Joe Meno and Dan Sinker — the former via his numerous books, the latter via his work as a writer and editor. So when an email showed up in my inbox with the news that Meno and Sinker were collaborating on a new project, Question Mark, Ohio, I was intrigued. The project, a serialized narrative about an Ohio town where objects are mysteriously disappearing, kicks off today on Instagram, with further updates taking place beginning on April 25 on the town’s website. I spoke with Meno and Sinker about the project’s genesis, their collaboration, and the art of the narrative.

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