Category Archives: Hooray Fiction!

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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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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Where There’s Smoke…

City on Fire

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It’s around page 850 of Garth Risk Hallberg’s City on Fire when the action really gets going.

Plenty happens in the preceding pages, sure, but it is only toward the very end that the various narrative threads finally begin to twist and knot: It’s past 2:00 a.m. on the night of the New York City blackout of 1977. Detective Larry Pulaski, one of at least nine major characters who have carried the story so far, has followed a handful of dead-end leads surrounding a New Year’s Eve shooting to this moment — a desperate race to prevent something (no spoilers) that is part of “a scenario so screwy it wouldn’t pass muster at a movie house.”  Continue reading

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HITTING SHELVES #25: The Unfinished World by Amber Sparks

The Unfinished World

The Unfinished World by Amber Sparks comes out today!

It’s a debut collection of uncanny stories that begin with lines like “Today is the opening day of werewolf season” and “Lancelot has been summoned out of sleep to find a secret kingdom.” Amber Sparks can do scary, she can do bizarre, she can do delightful–she can do anything. The Unfinished World is a string of jewels.

We asked the author one question.

How are you celebrating the publication of The Unfinished World? Continue reading

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What Do We Owe the Fictional Dead?

The Privilege of Protagonists

One of the best books I read in 2015 was The Meursault Investigation by Kamel Daoud. It’s an Algerian writer’s response to Albert Camus’s The Stranger—especially to the way Camus’s protagonist thoughtlessly shoots an Algerian man at the midpoint of that book, and nobody—not the shooter, not the author, not subsequent generations of readers and literary critics—stops to consider the humanity of that dead, fictional Algerian.

In Daoud’s novel, the idea that Camus treated the dead Algerian unjustly is practically a foregone conclusion, especially since the French have a history of abusing Algerians. But this is not a type of injustice that we typically think about. The Meursault Investigation accuses an author of abusing his own character. It turns a fictional death into a real-world injustice. That’s rather astounding. And it has big implications for storytelling in general. Continue reading

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The 10 Best Things to Read Instead of Mein Kampf


I know we all want people buying more books, but this can’t be good:

Only three days after Adolf Hitler’s notorious autobiography Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”) was re-released in Germany, following its entry into the public domain after a 70-year ban, booksellers and Amazon have already sold out of their copies.

Some sold out within hours.

The new edition, which runs about 2,000 pages, was developed by a “team of scholars and historians” who added about 3,500 annotations — most of which we assume were comments like “Fuck this guy” and “SRSLY???”

It seems reasonable that the German people would have a lot of curiosity about the book, which played a major role in history and has been verboten since 1945. But here at Fiction Advocate we say, screw curiosity. If you are going to rush out to buy a book, here are some you should absolutely choose over Mein KampfContinue reading


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