Books I Have Been Reading Lately

Donna Tartt
The Goldfinch
784pp. Little Brown. 9780316055437

Like you need me to tell you to read this or like anyone who has been reading this blog and its ongoing semi-obsessive TSH fandom for more than five minutes will be surprised that I loved it, but even I was surprised by just how much I loved it--like, falling so deeply into this gorgeous, fully-realized world that I barely looked up from it for forty-eight hours until I turned the last page (my friend, coming over to make dinner, walking in on me as I wept over the last ten pages, saying, "I'm sorry, I can't talk to you until I'm done with this.") I haven't read a book that way since I was a kid--totally immersed, breath held, hours falling away without my noticing. But for those few philistines among you (ha! that's a joke, books about pretentious drunk lunatic rich white kids are not for everyone, I know, totally fair) who did not love The Secret History, I cannot tell you enough to give this one a try anyway--it's so much more human, more real, more glorious, and more compassionate; it's funny as hell; and it is, ultimately, about the power of very great art to transform us in its own image until we become a little greater ourselves, and who doesn't love that. (And if you did love The Secret History you will be delighted as I was to catch out her various sly references to it, including but not limited to a delicious cameo from Francis.) And you know, the mental image of Donna Tartt meticulously sourcing and consuming a variety of pharmaceutical opiates "for research" is pretty glorious. Also, SHE MAKES FUN OF THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO. IDK, basically Donna Tartt is the only living writer I can think of who can make me care about 800 pages of white dude, so. There you go.

Ann Marie Wirth Cauchon
178pp. Two Dollar Radio. 9781937512118

Nothing is dense and sinister and often gorgeous and always dirty, mean, messy, full of sharp edges. Set against a backdrop of massive wildfires raging across Montana, it's the story of Ruth, who's living a dead-end existence in Missoula with only her best friend Bridget for anything like company; but their friendship is more ugly than freeing, full of jealousy, spite, and complicated longings. Anne Marie Wirth Cauchon isn't afraid of anything as a writer, and she certainly isn't afraid to lay bare the complexities and dark side of female friendships. When drifter James hitchhikes into town, looking for clues to his father's decades-old disappearance, he sets in motion a chain of events that will bring all three main characters to a ruthless and unforgiving place. But there's a deep beauty to the novel, too; Wirth Cauchon has an effortlessly cool style that balances out the story's darkness and breathes air into its sometimes-claustrophobic corners. Two Dollar Radio is a small press that keeps putting out great, boundary-pushing work by women--Grace Krilanovich's The Orange Eats Creeps, Karolina Waclawiak's How To Get Into the Twin Palms--and Nothing is an worthy addition to that very excellent roster.

Simone Schwarz-Bart
The Bridge of Beyond
272pp. NYRB Classics. 9781590176801

I wrote about The Bridge of Beyond for the Book Smugglers but I'm telling you about it extra because it's one of the most extraordinary books you'll ever read--unbelievably gorgeous, alive, and capable of single-handedly remaking the way you think about books. I swear, it's that good.

Amina Cain
144pp. Dorothy. 0984469383

Danielle Dutton has the best taste, hands down--I haven't read a single thing from Dorothy, A Publishing Project that wasn't brilliant, and Amina Cain's Creature is no exception. These stories are icy little gems, each a fully-realized world of its own--single lines hint at whole lifetimes of love, loss, disappointment, regret. Cain has that rare and glorious knack of the perfect last line--one after another, her drily funny, mysterious, and beautiful stories end with a knife straight to the heart.

Other stuff I'm reading: Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah, which is every bit as good as everybody says it is; Neil Shubin's lovely, erudite The Universe Within; David Markson's Wittgenstein's Mistress, which I am rather startled to find myself enjoying; and I just finished Veronica Roth's Divergent, about which I had a Great Many Thoughts, which will likely appear here at some point. I have a little more free time now, which I am defending with my life.