“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.
In Sarah Nović’s first novel, Girl at War, her protagonist Ana Jurić lives “suspended between the living and the dead” after witnessing the atrocities of the Croatian War of Independence.
Much like Ana, the heroine of her engrossing debut novel, Sara Nović isn’t entirely sure where to call home. “This is what I’m trying to figure out,” the author says, laughing, in a recent interview. “I really don’t know.”
“Anna was a good wife, mostly.” So opens Jill Alexander Essbaum’s remarkable debut novel, the mesmerizing story of Anna Benz, an American expatriate who has lived in Zurich for nine years with her husband, Bruno—a Swiss banker—and their three children.
A dose of dark humor, a captivating historical novel and the 2014 National Book Award winner for fiction make great selections for reading groups this month.
Kelly Link tends to inspire a range of comparisons to other authors—usually, some blend of Angela Carter and Haruki Murakami—but, in fact, nobody writes stories like hers. Link’s fantastical worlds feel utterly real, partly because they’re intensely matter-of-fact. Her characters are sassy, moody and cool, and they never, ever make any big deal out of the fact that there are monsters, aliens, vampires or ghosts hanging around, or that they might stumble into a pocket universe or some alternate dimension. Mostly they’re concerned with cute guys and flirting and drinks, plus occasionally needing to save the world.