And lo, we’re in September. Nominally, the weather should start to get cooler; by month’s end, we might just see the first glimmerings of the coziness that autumn brings. What are we looking forward to reading this month? A whole array of books, from new works by old favorites to long-awaited debuts. There’s a lot to look forward to here; what follows is a look at some of the books we’re most excited about.
Some of the most unsettling horror taps into a primal and very real fear: that our bodies will somehow turn on us. It’s the sort of case where only the severity needs to be increased for a taste of the uncanny to emerge. We wrestle with our own bodies’ failures all the time, from chronic conditions to sudden illnesses. We struggle with our own health and we reckon with the health of those closest to us. Horror doesn’t need to do much to strike a chord here.
We’re thrilled to present an excerpt from Suiyi Tang’s forthcoming book American Symphony: Other White Lies, due out this fall on #RECURRENT/Civil Coping Mechanisms. The publisher describes it as follows: “American Symphony is a portrait of a portrait, a mirror’s reflection of someone that’s gone missing, a speculative memoir that takes cues and challenges from works by Kathy Acker, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, and Jenny Zhang.”
The film adaptation of Jonathan Lethem’s 1999 novel Motherless Brooklyn has been in the works for a while. In a 2010 interview, Edward Norton said, “I think I would definitely like to act in it but the directing thing I think we’ll have to wait and see.” Things have changed since then: for the finished film, Norton served as writer, director, and star. Much like the character he once voiced on The Simpsons, Norton is indeed a triple threat.
Vincent is just a guy, who has “just an office job” working for “the State” in the fictional town of A-ville. He used to be a painter, until “the shame of not selling paintings [made him] give up.” Unlike his namesake, he doesn’t sever his ear in the depths of despair; he enrolls in the experimental “PER” program offered by the bureaucratic Leader Dorian Blood, designed to increase worker happiness and productivity. The program requires a total devotion to data-entry, and dictates Vincent’s routine even outside of his 9-5 work, but it simultaneously walks him through his “ideal gate.” Once through his ideal gate, he carries out the same perfected routine, but feels in every way as though he is living his deepest subconscious fantasy. For most workers, this fantasy expresses itself as the material gain that we conflate with corporate success: a nicer car, a house with a pool, time to do and be nothing. For Vincent, this fantasy turns out to be exactly the same as his reality, except it includes his ex-wife Alice, an activist who left Vincent once the grayness of his work seeped out into the rest of his life.
My first encounter with Jaime Fountaine came via her role as one of the two hosts of Philadelphia’s Tire Fire Reading Series. Then we had the good fortune of publishing her essay “19, 16, and 1” here at Vol.1 Brooklyn, showing off another side of her literary works. This summer brings with it the release of her debut novella Manhunt, the story of a teenage girl dealing with her complex relationship with her mother, the mundane horrors of growing up, and the restrictions of suburbia. I talked with Fountaine about her book, suburban landscapes, and the game that gave her book its title.
When you look into a funhouse mirror, and your body appears stretched out or warped, you believe that reality is being distorted. You are confident that what you’re seeing in front of you is not how things really are. But what happens when you’re no longer looking into a mirror? What if you’re looking into a computer screen, or a book, or someone else’s face? Suddenly, it’s much more difficult to delineate what’s true from what’s not.
This summer, I got the chance to correspond with Sarah Lopez, one of the co-owners of Radix Media, a new Brooklyn-based publisher that focuses on beautifully designed, illustrated books with a high attention to detail. So far, they’ve published speculative works by John Dermot Woods, Vera Kurian, Ashley Shelby, and others. All look and feel like collector’s items, objects that truly do justice to the ideas they contain.