Weekend Reading

GoodmanIn this edition, a dishy oral history of the New York music scene post 9/11, people who see dead people, the latest from the uber-prolific Penelope Lively, and more...

Jon Foro: Please Kill Me documented the time when the Ramones, Blondie, and Talking Heads prowled the Bowery in the early 70s in search of success, someone to offend, or something to break. Meet Me in the Bathroom takes the same “oral history” approach – collecting the memories and words of the people who lived it – to pick up the story in 2001, when The Strokes, Interpol, The Killers, and dozens of other musicians and artists brought new energy to rock & roll in the wake of 9/11.

Erin Kodicek: Despite the fact that stories involving people who can see dead people are not my bag--and dolls, and therefore the title, give me the creeps--I'm going to check out the latest by Kate Hamer, The Doll Funeral. Her debut novel, The Girl in the Red Coat, was one of our favorite books of 2016, and the writing in this one is drawing comparisons to Jeanette Winterson and Ian McEwan, so, that's enough for me to risk a potential nightmare involving Chucky. I hope.

Sarah Harrison Smith: Penelope Lively published her first book, Astercote, a fantasy novel for children, back in 1970, and she’s been incredibly productive ever since, writing 30-odd books for children and more than 20 works of fiction for adults (Moon Tiger won the Booker Prize in 1987). At the moment, I’m reading a slim collection of her short stories, The Purple Swamp Hen, which Viking brought out last month. Lively has always been fascinated by memory, and one of my favorite pieces in this book, “A Biography,” takes the form of a series of fictional interviews with people who knew Lavinia Talbot, a recently deceased historian and TV show host. Each of them remembers her differently, and has special knowledge of her that sometimes contradicts what others recall. This fits right into the trend of polyphony that’s everywhere in fiction just now (George Saunders’s Lincoln in the Bardo, for one), and it’s an elegant way for Lively to consider the perennial question of how well any of us really know each other. To me, short stories are perfect for reading in summer, and this collection is surely one to tuck into your weekend-getaway bag.

Chris Schluep: In November 2014, we named Celeste Ng’s debut Everything I Never Told You as our Best Book of the Year. At the time, she wasn’t very well known. Her novel had been published in the summer and gotten some good reviews, but we watched sales really jump after our Best of the Year pick. A year or so later, the paperback took off. Now she’s known, and her next novel Little Fires Everywhere is just over the horizon, due to be published in September. I’ve read the beginning already—enough to know that I like it so far. I’ll read the rest this weekend. I’m also planning to finish Autumn by Karl Ove Knausgaard. The book is reportedly the first in a quartet of books based on the seasons. Each short chapter is named after a thing or things (“Teeth,” “Van Gogh,” “Fingers,” “Lice”) and he ties the discussion of each subject into his life. I’ve missed you, Knausgaard.  

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