A lot of my reading these days consists of Advance Reader Copies - books that have yet to be released. It is a huge privilege to receive books before they come out, but it’s also difficult because I often want to tell everyone about them way before they can be purchased. This month, I get to tell you about two books that I really enjoyed but have been waiting to write about - plus one more that I finally got around to reading after neglecting it in my “to be read” pile/mountain for far too long.
I read this book while we were in London and I could not put it down. Literally. One night, clearly suffering from jet-lag, I sat on the floor of the bathroom in our AirBnB and devoured this book in just a few hours. I was captivated. Kirshenbaum’s protagonist, Bunny, suffers from clinical depression. On New Year’s Eve, while out with her husband and friends, she has a breakdown that lands her on the psych ward of a New York City hospital. Bunny refuses all treatment and instead searches for order and meaning in her writing. Kirshenbaum’s exploration of mental illness never makes light of her characters’ struggles, but manages to be smart, witty, and often laugh-out-loud funny. If you like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Bell Jar, this one is for you.
Loudermilk: Or, The Real Poet; Or, The Origin of the World by Lucy Ives - Available May 7, 2019
An insightful and hilarious peek into a prestigious literary program and its subsequent social circles, Lucy Ives, in Loudermilk, creates a few fascinating characters, namely Loudermilk, Harry, Clare, and Anton, and gives readers a glimpse into their varied takes on Art - with a capital A - and the contributions they can each make to the world. Set in a small town called Crete, home to The Seminars, Troy Loudermilk is preparing to begin his first year in the poetry program. He has falsified his application and brought his "friend" Harry, the real poet, along to do his work for him. Ives project is impressive. Throughout her text, she includes poignant - and not so poignant - poetry written by the students, as well as a few complex, interesting, and insightful short stories by my favorite character, Clare. Ultimately, Ives shines a spotlight on the hypocrisy that can often be found in these programs, juxtaposed against the earnestness with which the students approach their task and their role as artists at a time in their lives when they are still trying to determine who they are.
I’m sure we all have authors and book critics that we trust to help us choose which books to read next. I know I have a few. So when Roxane Gay endorsed Laura van den Berg’s novel The Third Hotel, I knew that I needed to read it. After Clare’s husband dies unexpectedly, and somewhat mysteriously, she decides to attend a horror film festival in Cuba in his stead. When she arrives, she begins to see him everywhere. As she follows him - his ghost - her own hallucination - around Havana, her grief reveals itself to be as maze-like as the streets of the city. Her complicated relationship with her husband, and his tragic and unexplained death, have left her reeling, trying to navigate her feelings of loss and love, in relation to both her husband and her father, who is currently sick. Fans of horror, check this book out. It is gothic and claustrophobic and fascinating in its exploration of horror movies and academia.