Fresh Complaint, Jeffrey Eugenides’s first short-fiction collection, reads like a career retrospective. Comprised of stories that ran in The New Yorker and elsewhere over the last 29 years (only two stories appear to have been written for the collection), the book showcases the obsessions and hallmarks that have come to define Eugenides as a writer. We follow odd-ducks, middle-aged failures, and bourgeois literary types as they trek off to India, quest for a sense of fulfillment, sacrifice their ambition, and generally struggle to be happy.
Chance the Rapper debuted a new track on The Late Show that he wrote a few days prior, and I loved it. I love the leap he took to perform something with all the raw edges still on it. I find that art when it’s new, before all the edits and revisions, is sometimes the most powerful, and certainly the most risky.
Also, I’m pretty sure the light set they used was also pretty new, because they made Stephen Colbert wear shoe protectors when he walked out at the end… :)
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado: “Blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.”
A Field Guide to the North American Family by Garth Risk Hallberg: “For years, the Hungates and the Harrisons have coexisted peacefully in the same Long Island neighborhood, enjoying the pleasures and weathering the pitfalls of their suburban habitat. But when the patriarch of one family dies unexpectedly, the survivors face a stark imperative: adapt or face extinction.”
The Future Is History by Masha Gessen: “Putin’s bestselling biographer reveals how, in the space of a generation, Russia surrendered to a more virulent and invincible new strain of autocracy.”
Also this month: We’ll review new books from Jeffrey Eugenides and Lindsay Hunter, publish Rick Moody’s foreword to Charlatan by Cris Mazza, and get nerdy about disaster movies with Ashley Wells.
Like a Dog by Tara Jepsen comes out today! It’s the story of a skateboarder, in her early thirties, struggling to have a relationship with her brother, who has an opiate addiction. It’s a grim, funny, raw, spectacular debut novel. We asked the author how she’s celebrating.
On the official day of Like a Dog’s publication I will rise at a generous 7:45, then immediately take my 75 mg of Venlafaxine. Will that guarantee a good mood? Probably not! I am still a person! I shall then feed my three cats, start a kettle for coffee, and look around for piles of cat barf. I will clean them up. I will not even be grossed out because I’ll be so glad that they are not dead rodents with their faces chewed off.
In writing #gods, probably my most important research material (loosely defined), given that most of the book is set in Harlem and Washington Heights (in upper Manhattan), was the neighborhood where I’ve lived for the past twenty years. I specifically live east of Broadway in the lower 160s, just north and west of an area traditionally known as Sugar Hill, which is famous for its role in the Harlem Renaissance in the 1920s as the home of African-American artists and writers including Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Duke Ellington, and many others. Today, the neighborhood remains (demographically speaking) nonwhite, which I mention because, as a white person, I think it’s important to have an understanding of what it means (to some small extent) to be a minority in our country, and living in a nonwhite neighborhood, along with being gay, has I hope given me some perspective—or at least sensitivity—that I tried to incorporate into the book.
I don’t always love Van Morrison, but when his stuff works, it REALLY works well. You always get a clear sense that he cares deeply about his art, and I will listen to “Into the Mystic” or “Moondance” any day of the week. This track off a live album is a great performance by the whole band, faithfully lurching their way through the blues. I also happened upon an alternate version that Mr. Morrison did with Tom Jones and Jeff Beck. It’s pretty killer.