Category Archives: Hooray Fiction!

HITTING SHELVES #8: Your Face in Mine by Jess Row

Your Face in Mine

Your Face in Mine by Jess Row comes out today!

It’s the story of Kelly Thorndike, a Baltimore native who bumps into an old friend on the streets. His friend used to be Jewish, but now, thanks to a near-impossible medical procedure, he has been transformed into an African American. Enlisted in the cause, Kelly becomes the doubting Boswell to his friend’s Dr. Johnson, charged with writing the official story of the world’s first “racial reassignment surgery.” But Kelly is distracted by his own issues: his Chinese wife and their young daughter died recently, and he still grieves for them, and for the culture he left behind as an expat in China. Kelly is faced with some big questions. Is race a personal choice? Should it be? Is that even possible?

Your Face in Mine is a searing account of race in America today. It might be the best book I have read all year. It’s certainly the most thought-provoking. Run to the store, buy it, read it, and watch the future unfold in its image.

We asked the author one question. Continue reading

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Ancient Oceans of Central Kentucky by David Connerley Nahm

Ancient Oceans of Central Kentucky

FA review tag

Long-form ghost stories are rare, probably because they’re difficult to pull off. You have to keep the tension ramped up. You have to work within a story archetype, but surprise your readers and keep them on their toes. You have to write in such a way that not only do the characters have no idea what’s going to happen, but neither does your audience. In short, you need a lot up your sleeve.

Ancient Oceans of Central Kentucky moves in tightening circles, spinning closer and closer to a rabbit hole of a drain. We follow Leah Shepherd, who has returned to her semi-fictional hometown of Crow Station, Kentucky after a stint in graduate school and a broken-off engagement. Her job as a social worker with a tiny nonprofit feeds bits of surreal, small-town humor into the text: a woman asks for a felony charge to be dismissed because it’s her birthday; a dead dog is found on the side of the road and becomes the all-encompassing conversation topic for a day. Throughout the novel, Leah is reminded of her little brother Jacob who went missing when they were children, and behind every plot advancement is the lurking knowledge that something bad is going to happen.

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The Free Stuff: Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals

Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexual

Everyone is talking about Patricia Lockwood, and they should be. Her second collection of poems, Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, is full of sex, animals, geography, and lines so bizarrely funny they make you swallow wrong and cough. Lockwood makes poetry feel like a real thing again, like something more important than whatever is on HBO. You should get the book and read it all at once, then do it again slowly.

In the meantime, 14 of the 31 poems in Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals are online, and we have rounded them up for you.

Search “Lizard Vagina” and You Shall Find

The Arch

When the World was Ten Years Old

He Marries the Stuffed Owl Exhibit

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Death by Chocolate

Excerpted from Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer by Matthew Gavin Frank. Copyright © 2014 by Matthew Gavin Frank. With permission of the publisher, Liveright Publishing Corporation. All rights reserved.

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As Harvey stepped closer to the scene, he saw now that the fishermen’s raincoats were uniformly orange—and not yellow—and, as they surrounded the fallen beast like so many scattered searchlights, the smell of it, this close, shifted to something so deeply marine it smelled dark—mineshaft-dark; the rotting corpses of countless failed canaries, the ones who got lost in the pitch; and something of burning tires. In this, Harvey surely began to feel faint, the cool of the rain trickling to the inside of his coat, the drops running along the lines of his body, into his armpits, over his ribcage, commingling with the anxious sweat there. He exhaled and, given the temperature, saw his breath escape him, tumble into the air toward the giant squid, graying massive on dry land, and disappear. He began to have trouble determining exactly what he was seeing—what was, and what wasn’t.

The giant squid

is an umbrella classification that may encompass up to eight species.

has ten arms.

is prey to sperm whales, who house in their heads both spermaceti (a white waxy substance of uncertain biological function that humans have extracted and used in making candles, ointments, and -cosmetics) and the biggest brain of any animal.

is the semimissing link between vertebrates and invertebrates as, according to Harvey, “the glassy internal pen . . . ​and the calcareous internal ‘bone’ . . . ​are held to foreshadow the spinal column of the higher animals.”

’s tentacles are adorned with subspherical suction cups, each of which can be five centimeters in diameter, possess a sharp serrated lining, and are responsible for the ring-shaped scars that are commonly found on the heads of sperm whales.

’s tentacles are grouped around the beast’s “beak,” which resembles that of a parrot, but is way, way bigger.

’s suckers are typically described as “campanulate,” meaning of a flower, meaning bell-shaped, meaning like a campanula, the bloom which lent its name to Rapunzel, the bloom from which white latex is extracted to make the gloves worn by scientists when they dissect things like the giant squid.

’s blood loses its ability to carry oxygen in warmer waters, resulting in suffocation.

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The Nyugat Generation

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Budapest

The 7 Greatest Hungarian Novelists of the 20th Century

I imagine that sometimes, in his restless wandering, the mercurial Spirit of literature lingers a little longer in certain places, gracing them with strange intensity that finds flesh in language. This otherworldly urgency can inspire a whole generation of writers. It is as if this task, at this moment, in this particular place, is too much for a single human being to shoulder.

I feel this way about the work of the so-called Nyugat generation of writers and poets that came of age around the turn of the 20th century in Budapest. They were named after the Nyugat (Hungarian for “west” or “Occident”), a progressive literary magazine established in 1908, which published new prose and poetry and provided soil for literary careers to sprout and mature. Most of these writers are still practically unknown outside of Hungary.

Hungarian, completely unrelated to the Indo-European languages of Europe, with its larger-than-life reputation of being impossible to conquer (I disagree), and with only about 13 million speakers around the world, certainly contributes to the isolation of the prose and poetry that came into the world in its skin. Reading John Lukacs’ Budapest 1900 (Grove Press, 1988), I was glad to see that many more authors and works have been translated into English in the last twenty-five years. Today’s English speaking reader no longer has an excuse for his ignorance of Zsigmond Moricz, Gyula Krúdy, Dezső Kosztolányi, Frigyes Karinthy, Antal Szerb, Milán Füst and Sándor Márai (among many others).

The work of these seven authors is well represented in English. The writers knew each other, and, to a certain extent, I read their work as if eavesdropping on a nocturnal conversation about life, love, death, dreams, and alter egos.

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On the Origin of Geoff

The Colour of Memory

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In the course of his career, British author Geoff Dyer has written books on jazz, World War I memorial culture, photography, D.H. Lawrence (really a book on procrastination), travel, the Russian art film Stalker, and—most recently—life aboard the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier U.S.S. George H.W. Bush. And that’s just his nonfiction; Dyer is also the author of four novels and numerous essays and reviews.

But until now, his first two novels, The Colour of Memory and The Search, have never been published in the United States. Graywolf Press (publisher of Dyer’s National Book Critics Circle Award-winning collection of occasional writings, Otherwise Known as the Human Condition) has taken advantage of the increasing acclaim for Dyer’s work and released the two earliest Dyer novels to an American audience for the first time.

Dyer’s first novel, The Colour of Memory, follows the life of a young man and his friends (based on the author and his own friends) who live on the dole in the Brixton section of London in the 1980s. Very little happens, plot-wise, in the course of the book. (Dyer’s novels tend to be light on plot.) A few romantic relationships start and end. But mostly the characters hang out, talk about movies and art, drink, do odd jobs, and go to parties.

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I went to New York, you guys.

Mast Books

I went to New York, you guys. It has been two years since I lived there, and six months since I last visited, although that was in winter, and now it’s summer. In summer the city is a different place.

The Strand is still there. Fuck the Strand. They should call it Rock Bottom Remainders. St. Mark’s Bookshop got evicted. What is wrong with people? Now the St. Mark’s windows are empty and anonymous and totally wrong. Have you been to Mast? It’s like the artisanal chocolate maker of the same name, but for books: $80 volumes of Richard Avedon and weathered first editions of Pnin. The new St. Mark’s was supposed to open on 3rd Street and Avenue A, but when I dropped by it was locked and they were still moving in. Exhausted and overheated, I went to McNally Jackson for a cold can of blood orange San Pellegrino—Aranciata Rossa, I should say—and on the way out I bought Patricia Lockwood’s book of poems but not Eileen Myles’s book of essays because luggage.

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Ultramarine

Excerpted from A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall by Will Chancellor. Copyright © 2014 by Will Chancellor.

A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall

Four days after his second surgery, in his undersize bed, Owen woke with resolve. He glanced to his clock, hoping for a single digit. A six, an eight, even 9:59 would do. One. The wrong single digit. But it explained the light. Thin winter blue through empty air, not even a dust mote dancing. Or possibly it was just because he needed his left eye to get the oblique angle. He slowly rotated his head, rolling into the thick of a radiating headache. He swallowed a painkiller and went outside for air.

All it took was a nudge of the aluminum frame to open the screen door, stained with salt-wind and hinge-sprung. The sharp dry squeak, a call to the gulls. An onshore breeze held the door closed after Owen passed through.

If he would be going anywhere, this sand would have to go with him.

Owen staggered down the cliff behind his house and over the shale, pooled by the low tide. He crabbed along the rocks until he found his familiar ledge. Leaving his sandals behind, he leapt to the wet sand.

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