The Best Books to Distract You From the Dumpster Fire That Was 2016

Should 2016 be forgot and never brought to mind…

There are, no doubt, a few people who love Donald Trump, hate music, don’t like zoo animals and despise beloved actors and actresses. For the rest of us, 2016 was terrible.

This calls for distractions. We asked Fiction Advocate contributors to tell us which books they read this year that helped them forget, even for fleeting moments, that David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Gwen Ifill, Prince, and America — UPDATE: and George Michael and Carrie Fisher and her mom, Debbie Reynolds — died over the last 12 months.

In what may be the only happy coincidence of the year, the vast majority of the recommendations below come from a few people who have some of the most important things to say about 2016: Continue reading

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The 10 Best Books of 2016

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America This is Quite Serious: What Just Happened Was the Easy Part

FA serious

I began this series with the declaration “Politics sucks.” Boy was I right.

If you’ve been anywhere near the internet lately, you’ve already heard what others have to say about racism, sexism, coastal elite bubbles, millennials, the FBI, voter turnout, minority voter turnout, the real media, the fake news, the electoral college, etc. — basically any and every reason Hillary Clinton did not close the deal on November 8th. In the spirit of this series’ mission to recommend the best coverage, I found the most insightful and comprehensive reaction piece to be this one from Dave Roberts at Vox. For myself, I have largely stayed quiet because, as election day showed, it’s a bad idea to make decisions when you’re scared and angry.

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But a series about the 2016 election should include some response to the results. And in the time since those results came in, we’ve seen a lot of evidence for a very unpleasant truth: Continue reading

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The Boomstick Film Club: The Scapegoat

Watch it with us: Netflix streaming

The trope of the doppelgänger is a perennial favorite in the thriller and horror genres. There’s something fascinating and terrifying about the idea of a total stranger walking around with your face. We think of our bodies as synonymous with our personalities or souls, so the idea of two identical bodies with vastly different souls is fertile ground for horror and suspense. The Scapegoat was adapted by television director Charles Sturridge from a Daphne du Maurier novel that explores the same territory as The Prince and the Pauper: two physically identical men who trade lives and pretend to be each other; only here, the consequences are far more serious.

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Non-Fiction by Non-Men: Melissa Broder

Melissa Broder is a poet, essayist, and the writer behind the Twitter account @sosadtoday. She has written an essay collection of the same name, So Sad Today (Grand Central, 2016), and four books of poetry: Last Sext (Tin House, 2016), Scarecrone (Publishing Genius Press, 2014), Meat Heart (Publishing Genius Press, 2012), and When You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother (Ampersand Books, 2010). Her first novel, The Pisces, will be published by Hogarth/Crown in 2018. You can read a selection of her poetry here. Broder received her BA from Tufts University and her MFA from City College of New York. By day, she is Director of Media and Special Projects at NewHive. She lives in Venice, California.

EB: How did you begin writing nonfiction? What attracted you to the genre?

MB: When I lived in New York I used to write poetry a lot on the subway. When I moved to Los Angeles three years ago, I started to dictate a lot in the car—stream of consciousness style—and the pieces started getting longer. I think that’s how I started doing these longer, essay-type pieces.

EB: Were the pieces longer just because you were spending more time in the car than on the subway?

MB: Yeah. Exactly. I’m one of those people that’s not good at sitting still or relaxing.

EB: Me too, it’s fine. Continue reading

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The Literary Tourist Interviews Canaan Morse

Canaan Morse Invisibility Cloak translator Ge Fei

The Literary Tourist is a column of conversations between literary translators about newly released books in translation. This month Andrea Gregovich interviews poet, editor, and Chinese translator Canaan Morse. Canaan co-founded the literary journal Pathlight: New Chinese Writing as its first poetry editor, won the Susan Sontag Prize for Translation in 2014, and has published translations and book reviews in several international journals, both print and online. The Invisibility Cloak, a captivating experimental novel by Ge Fei, is Canaan’s first translated book.

Andrea Gregovich: The Invisibility Cloak feels unique to me—a Beijing-based freelance designer of custom sound systems for wealthy people takes a sketchy job that goes awry, and trouble ensues. Its narrative is a patchwork of classical music discussion, shop talk about audio components, and the political and philosophical opinions of various characters. Did you detect any literary influences when you were working on this book? Does it fit into any literary trends in China?

Canaan Morse: I’m so glad you asked this question, because my answer is a resounding “No.” While much of the earlier, experimental fiction upon which Ge Fei built his reputation is deeply (and clearly) influenced by American Modernism, his later fiction speaks with a much more individualized voice. This book in particular leaves an aesthetic impression unlike any other; its terse yet suddenly mellifluous narrative style and its embrace of suspense distinguish it clearly from all the English and Chinese literature I’ve read. Continue reading

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