A poignant and hilarious memoir about an aging parent, an other-worldly collection of short stories and a critically lauded epic of four friends in New York make for great discussion this month.
From Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to Gone Girl, contemporary marriage has frequently been subject to scathing literary portrayals. Andria Williams, however, may well be the first to set marital tribulations against the backdrop of a (literal) nuclear meltdown. Given this, ahem, explosive premise, it’s interesting to note that Williams’ debut eschews the extremities favored by the likes of Edward Albee or Gillian Flynn. The Longest Night is a closely observed study with its feet planted firmly in domestic realism.
It is impossible to explain fully the beautiful, haunting emotional power of Elizabeth Strout’s new novel, My Name Is Lucy Barton. Magic? Genius? Certainly much of its power arises from the mesmerizing voice of Lucy Barton, teller of this tale. And much of it comes from the details of the story she slowly unfolds.
The title of the new volume The Early Stories of Truman Capote is certainly truth in advertising. These are very early stories, written largely when Capote was a teenager, only recently discovered among the writer’s papers in the New York Public Library. A few of the 14 were published in his Greenwich, Connecticut, high school newspaper, but short of any surviving classmates, odds are good that these stories are reaching Capote fans for the first time.
David Mitchell’s novel Slade House first came to life as a short story delivered in 140-character bursts on Twitter. That story, “The Right Sort,” is now the first entry in a chilling novel in stories that’s an intriguing companion piece to Mitchell’s 2014 novel, The Bone Clocks, an intricate saga of a war between two groups of time travelers.
“The sleep of reason produces monsters.” These words can be found in an etching by Francisco Goya, reproduced at the beginning of Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (or 1,001 nights, that magical number). It’s a nightmarish image of a young man asleep, slumped over a table as a horde of wide-eyed and shadowy creatures bear down upon him.
It takes a writer of immense confidence and talent to fashion beautiful stories that chronicle ordinary people coping with devastating challenges. Adam Johnson demonstrated this talent in his novel The Orphan Master’s Son, which received the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. He now does the same in Fortune Smiles, a collection of six powerful short stories in which characters are forced to contend with some of life’s biggest tragedies.
Shirley Jackson, who died 50 years ago this month at the much too early age of 48, left behind a solid literary opus anchored in two indelible works: the iconic short story “The Lottery” and the classy ghost story novel, The Haunting of Hill House. Let Me Tell You collects 29 stories, including 21 that have never before been published, as well as many essays and humor pieces.
In her perceptive debut novel, Julia Pierpont examines the effect that an extramarital affair has on one artistic New York City family. We asked Pierpont a few questions about the allure of the affair as a plot device, the brother-sister bond and smutty "Seinfeld" fan fiction.
Two new novels set in privileged northeastern communities showcase the darker side of family life.