5 Books | by Vulture
Homesick for Another World
An electrifying first collection from one of the most exciting short story writers of our time Ottessa Moshfegh's debut novel Eileen was one of the literary events of 2015. Garlanded with critical acclaim, it was named a book of the year by The Washington Post and the San Francisco Chronicle, nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award, short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, and won the PEN/Hemingway Award for debut fiction. But as many critics noted, Moshfegh is particularly held in awe for her short stories. Homesick for Another World is the rare case where an author's short story collection is if anything more anticipated than her novel. And for good reason. There's something eerily unsettling about Ottessa Moshfegh's stories, something almost dangerous, while also being delightful, and even laugh-out-loud funny. Her characters are all unsteady on their feet in one way or another; they all yearn for connection and betterment, though each in very different ways, but they are often tripped up by their own baser impulses and existential insecurities. Homesick for Another World is a master class in the varieties of self-deception across the gamut of individuals representing the human condition. But part of the unique quality of her voice, the echt Moshfeghian experience, is the way the grotesque and the outrageous are infused with tenderness and compassion. Moshfegh is our Flannery O'Connor, and Homesick for Another World is her Everything That Rises Must Converge or A Good Man is Hard to Find. The flesh is weak; the timber is crooked; people are cruel to each other, and stupid, and hurtful. But beauty comes from strange sources. And the dark energy surging through these stories is powerfully invigorating. We're in the hands of an author with a big mind, a big heart, blazing chops, and a political acuity that is needle-sharp. The needle hits the vein before we even feel the prick. From the Hardcover edition.
The Invention of Angela Carter
Angela Carter is widely considered one of the best loved and most highly acclaimed English writers of the last hundred years. She was prolific and inventive, producing an astounding range of innovative novels, short stories, screenplays, and essays that won her the admiration and respect ofreaders around the world, including renowned peers such as Salman Rushdie, Joyce Carol Oates, and Margaret Atwood. Dozens of books have been written about Carter's work, but only a few have considered the author's life, often as a brief prelude to criticism of her fiction. Edmund Gordon's The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography will be the first to fully explore Carter's life and career. Written with theexclusive authorization of Carter's estate, and facilitated by interviews with family and friends, as well as unrestricted access to her manuscripts and journals, the book takes readers through Carter's childhood in England, her struggling years as an apprentice writer, her breakthroughs in fiction,and her collaborations with filmmakers like the Irish director Neil Jordan. Alongside these public professional achievements, Gordon offers unique insights into Carter's private life, delving into her two marriages, her encounters with sexism, her frustrations as a university professor, and herstruggle with lung cancer. Because its subject so powerfully embodied the spirit of the times, the book also provides a fresh perspective on Britain's social and cultural history in the second half of the twentieth century. It examines such topics as the 1960s counterculture, the social and imaginative conditions of thenuclear age, and the advent of second wave feminism. Angela Carter's life was as rich with incident, as vigorously modern, as unconventional, as dark, and ultimately as tragic as anything in her fiction. This sharply written narrative will be the definitive biography for years to come.
So Much Blue
A new high point for a master novelist, an emotionally charged reckoning with art, marriage, and the past Kevin Pace is working on a painting that he won’t allow anyone to see: not his children; not his best friend, Richard; not even his wife, Linda. The painting is a canvas of twelve feet by twenty-one feet (and three inches) that is covered entirely in shades of blue. It may be his masterpiece or it may not; he doesn’t know or, more accurately, doesn’t care. What Kevin does care about are the events of the past. Ten years ago he had an affair with a young watercolorist in Paris. Kevin relates this event with a dispassionate air, even a bit of puzzlement. It’s not clear to him why he had the affair, but he can’t let it go. In the more distant past of the late seventies, Kevin and Richard traveled to El Salvador on the verge of war to retrieve Richard’s drug-dealing brother, who had gone missing without explanation. As the events of the past intersect with the present, Kevin struggles to justify the sacrifices he’s made for his art and the secrets he’s kept from his wife. So Much Blue features Percival Everett at his best, and his deadpan humor and insightful commentary about the artistic life culminate in a brilliantly readable new novel.
A portrait of the artist as a young woman. A novel about not just discovering but inventing oneself. The year is 1995, and email is new. Selin, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, arrives for her freshman year at Harvard. She signs up for classes in subjects she has never heard of, befriends her charismatic and worldly Serbian classmate, Svetlana, and, almost by accident, begins corresponding with Ivan, an older mathematics student from Hungary. Selin may have barely spoken to Ivan, but with each email they exchange, the act of writing seems to take on new and increasingly mysterious meanings. At the end of the school year, Ivan goes to Budapest for the summer, and Selin heads to the Hungarian countryside, to teach English in a program run by one of Ivan's friends. On the way, she spends two weeks visiting Paris with Svetlana. Selin's summer in Europe does not resonate with anything she has previously heard about the typical experiences of American college students, or indeed of any other kinds of people. For Selin, this is a journey further inside herself: a coming to grips with the ineffable and exhilarating confusion of first love, and with the growing consciousness that she is doomed to become a writer. With superlative emotional and intellectual sensitivity, mordant wit, and pitch-perfect style, Batuman dramatizes the uncertainty of life on the cusp of adulthood. Her prose is a rare and inimitable combination of tenderness and wisdom; its logic as natural and inscrutable as that of memory itself. The Idiot is a heroic yet self-effacing reckoning with the terror and joy of becoming a person in a world that is as intoxicating as it is disquieting. Batuman's fiction is unguarded against both life's affronts and its beauty--and has at its command the complete range of thinking and feeling which they entail.
The Schooldays of Jesus
LONGLISTED FOR THE MAN BOOKER PRIZE From the Nobel Prize-winning author J. M. Coetzee, the haunting sequel to The Childhood of Jesus, continuing the journey of Davíd, Simón, and Inés “When you travel across the ocean on a boat, all your memories are washed away and you start a completely new life. That is how it is. There is no before. There is no history. The boat docks at the harbour and we climb down the gangplank and we are plunged into the here and now. Time begins.” Davíd is the small boy who is always asking questions. Simón and Inés take care of him in their new town, Estrella. He is learning the language; he has begun to make friends. He has the big dog Bolívar to watch over him. But he’ll be seven soon and he should be at school. And so, with the guidance of the three sisters who own the farm where Simón and Inés work, Davíd is enrolled in the Academy of Dance. It’s here, in his new golden dancing slippers, that he learns how to call down the numbers from the sky. But it’s here, too, that he will make troubling discoveries about what grown-ups are capable of. In this mesmerizing allegorical tale, Coetzee deftly grapples with the big questions of growing up, of what it means to be a “parent,” the constant battle between intellect and emotion, and how we choose to live our lives. From the Hardcover edition.