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I think Ali Smith might be made of magic. This book moves; it dances to the arc of characters' recollected memories, it glides over penned autumn winds, it rises and falls with sleep-filled breaths. Autumn tells the story of two friends, Elisabeth and George, who form a singularly special friendship when elementary-aged Elisabeth and her mother move in next door to George, an old (in his eighties) musician, full of passion for art from the sixties. In her typical non-linear style, Smith narrates a fifty-year chunk of time in Britain, focusing especially on the juxtaposition of the then (empowered artists, hope-filled futures), and the now (horrifying nationalism, self-imposed isolation). Smith will leave you clinging to the last page.
Michael McCarthy saturates this collection of nature essays with evocative and compelling prose that made me close my eyes and recall my own childhood memories of nature. As a child, McCarthy fell in love with the natural world that surrounded his home in Liverpool; the estuaries, fields, birds, butterflies, and moths. McCarthy uses these formative experiences to argue for the importance and preservation of nature. Amidst his lyrical joy, McCarthy details the environmental destruction he's witnessed in the last fify years. Beautifull written, his message of desperation is clear, " Love what we have, protect it absolutely."
When was the last time you read something that took on another dimension? In Ali Smith's "How to be Both," the story; characters, plot and world described, interact with each other in a way that allows the reader to conceptualize the story as shapes that materialize and solidify as the book unfolds. The book has two parts; George is a 16-year-old living in modern day Cambridge and has just lost her mother. Francesco is a Renaissance painter in the 1460's, who is remarkably talented and a bit of a social outsider. Smith draws the stories of both their lives into a beautiful and harmonious web that subverts the expectation that storytelling has to be lineal. Highly recommend!
This book has rendered me almost speechless. I immediately fell into the story; El Akkad's writing is electric and thirst-quenching, and the narrative itself pulls you along with it until you are no longer able to differentiate your own thoughts from those of the narrator. Set in the future, near the end of the 21st century, American War tells the story of the second American civil war, through the life and experiences of Sarat Chestnut, a woman who comes of age within that divisive and violent climate. El Akkad crafts a story that is horrifically terrifying, heart wrenching, and lovely. This is a timely novel that has the potential to instill within its' audience a sense of foresight and understanding that we're all desperate for.
Mary Gaitskill's new collection of essays allows you to wander, quite freely, around her head. Gaitskill has distilled her best, quirkiest, most compelling essays from the last twenty (plus) years into one volume. There's a little bit of everything in here -memoir, literary and art criticism, political editorials, music reviews- and Gaitskill has infused it all with her subjectie wisdom and incomparable observations. The passion Gaitskill feels for her subjects is tangible, resulting in a wonderful and invigorating read.
This retelling of the classic snow white tale is twisted, eye-opening, and surprisingly gentle. Oyeyemi begins from the perspective of the stepmother, Boy. The departure from the classic begins there, Boy is a well-written and easy to empathize with character, whose relationship with her stepdaughter, Snow is remarkably complex. When Boy and her husband, Arturo have a child, Bird, the story twists in on itself, swirling themes of racial identity and family obligation into the well-crafted story. Boy, Snow, Bird is bewitching, and lingers in your mind long after you put it down.
Anna Journey's new collection of essays, An Arrangement of Skin, sews together the patchwork of her life into an ornately recursive narrative that will sink into you. Journey explores skin as it relates to a shifting sense of self-awareness and identity. Her words shimmer with multiple meanings as she layers the textures of her personal experiences in between broader reflections of the world that surrounds us. An Arrangement of Skin is a wonderful study in introspection and self-awareness.
Charlie Jane Anders combines elements of fantasy and science fiction to create a glitteringly cautionary world that serves as the backdrop of this dystopic and imaginative book. "All the Birds in the Sky" focuses on the lives of Patricia and Laurence, two brilliant child-outcasts who bond over their inability to make friends in primary school. They fall out of touch while still young, and unexpectedly meet back up as twenty-somethings living in San Francisco. From there, the fate of human civilization impendingly seems to be tied to their lives and connectedness. I found this book to be unobtrusively captivating, and it is especially worth it if you're looking for a strange, enjoyable distraction.