Sunday, April 5, 2020

Nine notable unabashed books about bodies

Cai Emmons is the author of the novels His Mother’s Son (Harcourt), The Stylist (HarperCollins), and Weather Woman (Red Hen Press). A sequel to Weather Woman, called Sinking Islands, is forthcoming.

Her latest book is the story collection, Vanishing, winner of the 2018 Leapfrog Fiction Contest.

At LitHub, Emmons tagged nine books that "are notable for the frank eye they bring to physical pleasure and pain, and the overall messiness of human bodies." One title on the list:
Leslie Jamison, The Empathy Exams

Leslie Jamison’s essay collection The Empathy Exams forays into various corners of human experience, but ultimately its central concern is the female body and pain. As a survivor of anorexia, cutting, alcoholism, as well as abortion, heart surgery, and numerous accidents, Jamison is uniquely equipped to address this subject. Part personal essay and part academic treatise, Jamison composes her pieces by synthesizing her own experiences alongside the work of other writers, thinkers, and artists. “I’ve got this double-edged shame and indignation about my bodily ills and ailments—jaw, punched nose, fast heart, broken foot, etc. etc. etc. On the one hand, I’m like, Why does this shit happen to me? And on the other hand, I’m like, Why the fuck am I talking about this so much,” she says of herself, in the final essay entitled “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain.” Her final question in this essay is: “How do we represent female pain without producing a culture in which this pain has been fetishized to the point of fantasy or imperative?” Both self-disclosing and brainy, the book offers numerous riveting vignettes and deep dives into what it means to possess a body, in particular one of the female persuasion.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Thirteen essential pandemic novels

The staff at Publishers Weekly tagged thirteen essential pandemic novels, including:
A Beginning at the End
Mike Chen

The rebuild after a plague is the focus of this novel, which follows three San Franciscans trying to put the pieces back together after a disease known as MGS has taken out over half the population. The three acquaintances—a single dad, a former pop star, and a consultant who helps people cope with the tragedy—are put together by chance, but begin to bond as various threats surface. Chen's novel is a more hopeful take on end of the world that "manages to imbue the apocalypse with heart, hope, and humanity."
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, April 3, 2020

Five top titles in the complicated literature of daughters & mothers

Amy Engel is the author of The Roanoke Girls and The Book of Ivy series.

A former criminal defense attorney, she lives in Missouri with her family.

Engel's new novel is The Familiar Dark.

At CrimeReads she tagged five of her "favorite novels that tackle the complicated bond between mothers and daughters," including:
Carrie by Stephen King

The mother-daughter relationship in this one is a doozy. Carrie and her religious zealot of a mother have a dysfunctional, co-dependent relationship dialed up to ten. There is love between them, but also abuse, fear, and loathing. And Carrie is a daughter who has finally had enough. An extreme example of what happens when the mother-daughter relationship goes horribly awry.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Carrie is on Lizzy Barber's list of five of the most chilling extreme religion believers in fiction, Katie Lowe's top ten list of books about angry women, Jo Jakeman's list of the ten best revenge novels, Ania Ahlborn's list of ten of the scariest books of all time, Jeff Somers's list of the five worst mothers in literary history, Becky Ferreira's list of six of the most memorable bullies in literature, Julie Buntin's list of favorite literary kids with deadbeat and/or absent dads, Gregg Olsen's top ten list of deadly YA books, and James Dawson's top ten list of books to get you through high school.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Ten top Irish gothic novels

Ruth Gilligan is a writer and academic from Dublin now based in the UK. She has published five books to date and was the youngest person ever to top the Irish Bestsellers’ List.

Her most recent novel, The Butchers, is set in 1996 during the BSE crisis and was published in March 2020.

At the Guardian, Gilligan tagged ten “Irish gothic” offerings from which she drew eerie inspiration for The Butchers, including:
The Butcher Boy by Patrick McCabe (1992)

The dysfunctional tale of Francie Brady – a border-town native growing up in the 1960s – is not for the fainthearted. We follow Francie from childhood (cue alcoholic father and suicidal mother), through to industrial school (cue abusive priests), all the way to working life in an abattoir (cue a lot of dismembered pig carcasses). A disturbing portrait of a disintegrating mind, The Butcher Boy gave rise to the phrase “bog gothic” and revealed the sordid realities that often lurked behind romanticised depictions of rural Ireland.
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Butcher Boy is on Ray French's top ten list of black comedies, Allen Barra's top twelve list of the best postwar Irish novels, Nick Brooks's top 10 list of literary murderers, Declan Burke's 2008 top ten list of Irish crime fiction, and Edward Hogan's top ten list of stories set outside the city.

--Marshal Zeringue

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Ten scary good horror novels

At Bloody Disgusting, Meagan Navarro tagged ten scary good horror novels, including:
Meddling Kids – Edgar Cantero

In 1977, the teen detectives of the Blyton Summer Detective Case and their Weimaraner cracked open a significant case that leaves a costumed culprit behind bars for a very long time. Cut to thirteen years later, and the gang has long split up. None of them faring well in adulthood. Police want one of the members across multiple states, another battles alcoholism, and another has spent many years in Arkham Asylum. Nightmares and the suicide of the fourth member bring the gang back together to retrace the steps of their last case; there was something much worse than a masked man behind it all. Something otherworldly and Lovecraftian, and it wants free. Cantero remixes the Scooby-Doo setup with Lovecraftian terror, merging light-hearted horror with Dagon-like beasts. He avoids the pitfalls of oversaturating the prose in pop-culture references in favor of earnestness and action-horror.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Meddling Kids is among Max BoothII's top ten crime books with supernatural elements and comedy, Sam Reader's top ten "books that cast forests in their proper light: dangerous, dark, and deep" and Jeff Somers's six books that will rearrange your childhood memories.

--Marshal Zeringue

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Eight great novels where things disappear

Lincoln Michel is the author of Upright Beasts and the co-editor of the forthcoming crime anthology Tiny Crimes.

"The missing person is a classic mystery trope for a good reason," he writes at CrimeReads.
It immediately sets a story in motion while providing for a variety of plot paths. Is the person dead? Kidnapped? Running away? Hiding in plain sight? But people aren’t the only things that disappear in literature. Sometimes it is a vanishing cat or a disappearing novel that gets the story rolling.
One of "eight fantastic and strange novels that each have a unique spin on mysterious disappearances," according to Michel:
The Memory Police by Yoko Ogawa

Yoko Ogawa’s dystopian fable is a novel where something disappears, then another thing, then another and another. Indeed, almost everything vanishes on the unnamed island society governed by a group of Orwellian “memory police” that can make objects disappear. Candies, music boxes, ribbons, even birds. Citizens simply wake up one day and the items are erased from both the world and people’s memories. Although the novel was published in Japan in the 1990s, it was translated into English this year (by Stephen Snyder) and feels especially prescient in a world where it’s increasingly hard to know what is real and what is fake.
Read about the other entries on the list at CrimeReads.

--Marshal Zeringue

Monday, March 30, 2020

Five of the best books about time

Samantha Harvey is the author of four novels, The Wilderness, All Is Song, Dear Thief and The Western Wind, and of a memoir, The Shapeless Unease. She lives in Bath, UK, and is a Reader in creative writing at Bath Spa University.

At the Guardian, Harvey shared her favorite "books that play with present, past and future," including:
One of the many achievements of Penelope Lively’s Moon Tiger is a dramatising of the push-pull of time, its vast elasticity. The elasticity, too, of memory, of memories played and plundered over and over, from different points in time and different characters’ points of view. “Chronology irritates me,” says the novel’s protagonist, Claudia. “There is no chronology inside my head.” And so unravels the contents of that head in a startling, fractured personal history.

The moon tiger of the novel’s title is the name given to a mosquito coil which burns through the night – just as Claudia’s life also burns out, is purged, is consumed by the passing of time. What most resists the flames is her sorrow over something that never was. Isn’t this true? That the things we most often regret are not those we did, but those we didn’t do.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Favorite funny books recommended by Irish writers

Declan Hughes's first novel, The Wrong Kind of Blood won the Shamus Award for Best First PI novel and the Le Point magazine prize for best European crime novel. Subsequent novels include The Colour of Blood; The Dying Breed; All The Dead Voices and City of Lost Girls. His books have been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, Theakstons, CWA New Blood Dagger and Irish Book awards.

His latest novel is All The Things You Are.

Hughes's favorite funny books, as shared with The Irish Times:
The Information by Martin Amis, about the unhinged rivalry between two novelists, is a novel anyone involved in the literary life might find funny; it consistently makes me cry with laughter. However, like the same author’s Money, or his father’s Ending Up, or early Evelyn Waugh, or all of Edward St Aubyn, there is something a little too dark, too savage, too unsettling about it to work for me in the current unpleasantness; other’s nerves might be stronger.

There’s Nancy Mitford, of course, and Anita Loos and Dorothy Parker and Nora Ephron. The Best of Myles is maybe the funniest single book ever, but everyone knows that. Simon Gray’s diaries, all eight volumes, are ragingly funny, and his plays hold up; indeed, weirdly, they seem to work better now on the page than on the stage. Richmal Crompton’s William Brown stories still make me laugh, as do Michael Bond’s Paddington series and Willans & Searle’s St Custard’s books.

But if I must identify as a grown-up, I’ll plump for The Benchley Roundup. Robert Benchley was a fixture at the Algonquin Round Table and a minor Hollywood star. As a comic essayist – writing in Vanity Fair and The New Yorker – he seems to me to have weathered the years better than Thurber or Perelman, his great contemporaries.

Ask That Man, in which a husband, exasperated by his wife’s insistence that he seek travel directions from strangers, undertakes to do the opposite of what he is told; The Tortures of Weekend Visiting, in which host and guest listen anxiously at respective bedroom doors for one another to rise as morning turns to night; The Sunday Menace, in which the mooted remedy for the Sunday afternoon malaise is to set fire to the house; pastiches of opera synopses and strategies to repel your friends’ holiday anecdotes: it’s gentle, quirky, arch, observational, middlebrow fare and it’s very, very funny. And it’s in print!
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Ten top Seattle crime novels

J. Kingston Pierce is a longtime journalist in Seattle, Washington, and editor of The Rap Sheet, which has won the Spinetingler Award and been nominated twice for Anthony Awards. In addition, he writes the book-design blog Killer Covers, serves as the senior editor of January Magazine and as a contributing editor to CrimeReads, and is a columnist for Down & Out: The Magazine.

At CrimeReads Pierce tagged ten titles highlighting "Seattle’s potential as an ideal milieu for crime fiction," including:
Deadline Man by Jon Talton (2010)

Talton spent 37 years on the payrolls of daily newspapers, including The Seattle Times, so it’s no shock that one of his mysteries stars a reporter-detective. Deadline Man is a carefully paced, geopolitical conspiracy novel headlined by “The Columnist,” an otherwise unnamed business writer for the fictional Seattle Free Press. Early on, this journalist is surprised when a local hedge-fund manager he’s interviewing asks, cryptically, what he knows about “eleven-eleven.” Nothing is the answer. But after his source executes a 20-story dive to his death, the reporter begins the “sniff work” necessary to educate himself. He slowly connects puzzle pieces involving a pretty Seattle teen, a shady defense contractor, a private prison complex, a succession of slayings, and…well, let’s just say this is one hell of a complicated, often incredible pursuit of the sort that could land The Columnist in Pulitzer circles, or else a pine box.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Friday, March 27, 2020

The best books to help us survive a crisis

Joe Moran is professor of English and cultural history at Liverpool John Moores University. His books include Shrinking Violets: The Secret Life of Shyness and Armchair Nation: An Intimate History of Britain in Front of the Television.

At the Guardian, Moran tagged a few "books on how to keep calm in times of adversity - and take joy where we find it." One title on the list:
Those enduring self-isolation may find it uplifting to read about the heroic efforts of political prisoners to retain their sanity through human connection. The Turkish journalist Ahmet Altan wrote I Will Never See the World Again while serving a life sentence on trumped-charges of treason. This wise and defiant book, composed in a tiny shared cell and smuggled out in notes to his lawyers, celebrates the power of words to dissolve human isolation. “Like all writers, I have magic,” Altan writes. “I can pass through your walls with ease.”
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Fourteen enormous crime books for the long days ahead

Molly Odintz is the Associate Editor for CrimeReads. She grew up in Austin and worked as a bookseller at BookPeople for years before her recent move up to New York City for a life in crime. She likes cats, crime novels, and coffee.

At CrimeReads she tagged fourteen long-ass crime books, including:
Six Four, Hideo Yokoyama
Page Count: 576

In this thoughtful tale of the long shadow of past crimes, an anniversary of an unsolved kidnapping approaches, triggering a newly appointed police press liaison to reopen the investigation. When he discovers some information the police would rather be kept from the victim’s family, things really get interesting…
Read about the other entries on the list.

Six Four is among Junko Takekawa's five essential Japanese crime novels.

--Marshal Zeringue

Top ten novels and stories about shame

Christos Tsiolkas is the author of six novels, including Loaded, which was made into the feature film Head-On, The Jesus Man and Dead Europe, which won the 2006 Age Fiction Prize and the 2006 Melbourne Best Writing Award, as well as being made into a feature film.

His latest novel is Damascus.

At the Guardian, Tsiolkas tagged ten novels and stories about shame, including:
Ransom by David Malouf

Malouf takes a moment from The Iliad, when Priam goes to Achilles to beg that he be allowed to bury the desecrated body of his son, Hector, and from it crafts an exquisite novel in which we are witnesses to something world shattering – the moment when a king begs for mercy and for peace. Priam’s shame is clear. It is an abomination in the Homeric world for an aristocrat to fall to his knees and it is a scandal to not wish to repay blood with blood. In their argument and then in their accord, Achilles and Priam redefine both shame and honour. I think Malouf’s achievement is staggering. He rips apart the veil between the ancient and the contemporary.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue