HITTING SHELVES #28: Liar by Rob Roberge


Liar by Rob Roberge comes out today!

It’s a memoir about mental illness and addiction. Roberge, who is both a writer and a rock musician, won’t be able to remember his past much longer, thanks to frequent concussions and a memory-eroding disease. This book is his attempt to preserve his memory before it’s gone. It’s tough to read about Roberge’s blackouts and relapses, but his vivid life and his meditations on death make Liar an intense account of day-to-day survival.

We asked the author one question.

How are you celebrating the publication of Liar? Continue reading

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The Boomstick Film Club: Angel Heart

Angel Heart

Watch it with us: Netflix streaming

If you’ve never seen Angel Heart, there’s still a good chance you’re aware of its notoriously explicit sex scene between Lisa Bonet, who was nineteen and playing seventeen, and Mickey Rourke, who was thirty-five and playing washed-up. There’s obviously a conversation to be had about whether the scene was exploitative, and about the fact that Bonet’s most vocal critic at the time was America’s Dad, Bill Cosby. But for now I don’t want to lose sight of how extraordinarily weird that scene is, and how it fits within an even weirder movie. And consider yourselves forewarned: this movie has a twist that I am going to spoil, since there’s no way to talk about the film without it.

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Game On

Sudden Death

FA review tag

The first time someone told me the premise of Sudden Death by the Mexican novelist Álvaro Enrigue (translated by Natasha Wimmer), she followed it up by saying, “but it’s not really about that. It’s about everything.”

She was right, of course.

Sudden Death is about a tennis match between the famous Italian painter Caravaggio and the famous Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo in Piazza Navonna in Rome on October 4, 1599. This tennis match is not exactly a historical fact, but you can’t exactly prove it didn’t happen, either. Tennis, in those days, was an almost unimaginably rough sport, a contest for drunken ruffians and rowdy young aristocrats. Dueling at tennis was an acceptable alternative to dueling to the death. In this duel, Quevedo is “seconded” by Pedro Téllez-Girón, 3rd Duke of Osuna, while Caravaggio’s second is the estimable Galileo Galilei. Each point of the tennis match is narrated in rapturous detail, as if Enrigue were reporting from the sideline at Wimbledon. Continue reading

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You Oughta Read This


Chris Jackson co-founded the bookstore McNally Jackson, edited Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, and is making the stupidly white world of literary publishing a little more diverse: “The lens that we have is a way in which we can claim the entire world.”

How an old Philip Roth remark sort of predicted Donald Trump: “The American writer in the middle of the twentieth century has his hands full trying to understand, describe, and then make credible much of American reality.”

And speaking of the absurdity of American reality: “Amazon is planning to open hundreds of physical bookstores.”

Nathan Heller on airplanes: “Flight is the best metaphor for writing that I know.”

Saudi Arabia almost executes a poet: “The pen has yet to be proven mightier than the sword.”

Photo of Chris Jackson by Shaniqwa Jarvis for the New York Times


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HITTING SHELVES #27: The Yid by Paul Goldberg

The Yid

The Yid by Paul Goldberg comes out today!

It’s the rather outrageous story of a Jewish actor in 1953 who gets confronted by Stalin’s goons during a pogrom. He responds by assembling a band of misfit heroes to assassinate their Shakespearean villain of a ruler. This debut novel has been compared to Inglourious Basterds and Seven Samurai, and the movie analogies are apt–you’ve never seen a book like The Yid before.

We asked the author one question.

How are you celebrating the publication of The Yid? Continue reading

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What We’re Reading – February 2016

Black Deutschland

Black Deutschland by Darryl Pinckney: “Jed–young, gay, black, out of rehab and out of prospects in his hometown of Chicago–flees to the city of his fantasies, a museum of modernism and decadence: Berlin. The paradise that tyranny created, the subsidized city isolated behind the Berlin Wall, is where he’s chosen to become the figure that he so admires, the black American expatriate.”

The Heart

The Heart by Maylis de Kerangal: “The Heart takes place over the twenty-four hours surrounding a fatal accident and a resulting heart transplant as life is taken from a young man and given to a woman close to death.”

The Queen of the Night

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee: “Lilliet Berne is a sensation of the Paris Opera, a legendary soprano with every accolade except an original role, every singer’s chance at immortality. When one is finally offered to her, she realizes with alarm that the libretto is based on a hidden piece of her past.”

Also this month: We’ll review new releases Wreck and Order by Hannah Tennant-Moore and Sudden Death by Álvaro Enrigue.

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