The Worst Kind of Want by Liska Jacobs
The Bishop’s Bedroom by Piero Chiara
For anyone who has ever experienced burnout, there’s the moment when the desire to flee daily responsibilities becomes almost overwhelming. And despite the temporary reprieve sought in vacations or small acts of self-care, it’s only natural to still harbor long-term fantasies of escape.
This month we’re indulging our fantasies of freedom with two stories of literary escape before the inevitable return to real life: The Worst Kind of Want by California author, Liska Jacobs and The Bishop’s Bedroom, a reissue of a 1976 novel by Piero Chiara (it was made into a 1977 movie by the Italian comic master Dino Risi). Similarly set in picturesque Italy, both feature main characters worn-down by a sense of responsibility — One a man returning from WWII, the other a successful movie producer charged with caring for her recently motherless niece. While set in vastly different eras, both main characters pursue frivolous romances as a means of escape from more adult responsibilities.
Read More Two Novels Offer Cautionary Tales of Heedless Hedonism
Two books dealing with conflict shed light on these divisive times.
We’re arguably living in one of the most divisive times in recent history, and violent nationalist language has steadily been creeping out from the dark corners of the internet, confronting us with violent deaths, hate crimes, and college students giving the Nazi salute. And while man-made borders have exacerbated violent rhetoric, they certainly don’t confine it. Read More What We’re Reading in September
Three Very Different Books Connected By a Quest for Identity
The Gooze Fritz, by Sergei Lebedev (New Vessel Press)
There’s a natural inclination to fill in the missing pieces of our personal narratives. It partially stems from the belief that understanding where you come from, can ultimately shape where you’re going. Such stories allow us to elevate our unknown ancestors to mythical proportions — a missing father can become a war hero, or a grandfather a healing wizard — offering the descendent a chance to create order from chaos and reframe their roots.
Kirill, the main character in The Goose Fritz by Sergei Lebedev, doesn’t initially set out to elevate his ancestors, but he does attempt to control his destiny by creating a linear arc of the past. As a child, Kirill was the sole companion of his grandmother Lina, as she took secretive trips to the German cemetery in Moscow. Unquestioning, he accompanies her for years before understanding the family’s German origins. It’s a secret that seems so far removed from the American psyche — a nation of immigrants — yet so apt in a time of increased nationalism.
Read More What We’re Reading in April
The Holidays are here, and what better time than now to crack open a new cookbook and learn some new tricks for the dinner table.
Read More Five Favorite Cookbooks That Make Perfect Holiday Gifts
Aaron Hicklin reviews The Feral Detective, in which Jonathan Lethem conjures Burning Man if it was directed by Hitchcock.
On the penultimate page of his pacy 11th novel, The Feral Detective, slick-tongued protagonist, Phoebe Siegler, touches the umpteenth nerve ending of Lethem’s urbane, metropolitan readers. “I wasn’t going back to op-eds and conceptual art installations and Paris Review parties and scrolling outraged updates interspersed with pastry photographs,” she muses to herself. “Better no world than that one, sweet as it had been. It was gone.” It’s a neat coda to Lethem’s ambitious attempt to examine, and frequently eviscerate, the primitive call-response mechanism of the Trump presidency, and the sense of impotent rage it perpetually engenders. Phoebe, of course, is a stand-in for the reader—hollowed out by the outcome of an election she didn’t see coming, and left questioning the privileges she once took for granted. Read More Beware the Bear