The Nerdy & Random Bookshelf: 2

Alternating Current Press
Oct 9 · 5 min read

Editor Leah Angstman brings on the autumn edition of random reading with an advance-reader marathon.

I had the time of my life doing copyediting and book-culture writing with Pacific Standard, and then, well, this happened. And it happened suddenly. I had been given three ARCs with the full intention of including those books in PS’s fall roundup list, and between penning the contract one day and getting it back declined the next day, there was abruptly no more Pacific Standard. So I owe some love to three magnificent ARCs that should have (and would have) made the list had the literary landscape not gone bananas.

Image: Riverhead.

Fly Already by Etgar Keret

The 23 stories fit together so perfectly, holding a fairytale-like quality in their directness and surreality, though very much staying on the ground, pulling some heavy lifting with themes of war, the Holocaust, suicide, divorce, and drug abuse. The tone is even, and the narration is close to the chest, often in first-person, but even Keret’s third-person is held very close; when you are finished with the collection, you’ll have a hard time distinguishing which ones were third- or first-person because they all feel so intimate. The magic of Keret is that he never keeps you at a distance; he is constantly inviting you in to layer after layer of his worlds. You’re not a stranger here.

Though most of the stories deal with stress and guilt, the unpleasantness of mundanity, the realities of small feelings within a larger universe, and the onus on the individual to have to fix his own troubles, what drives this collection is the endless feeling that there might be hope at the end, and one of us — reader or narrator, author or Todd — might eventually be able to find it.

Image: FSG Originals.

False Bingo by Jac Jemc

Jemc is famous for direct, jarring, in-your-face boldness and unsettling character moralities, told with even more unsettling restraint and precision. There is so much satisfaction in the disturbance, in this undercurrent of otherworldly threat that brushes the surface of everyday life. The collection pulses with electricity, sometimes intermittent, sometimes a constant thrum, but always alive with the absurd, the uncanny, the disquieting, and the darkly humorous, and it shifts between the poignant and the horrifying. From a family slowly watching their dementia-stricken father unravel with a new home-shopping addiction to echoes of the Me Too movement to stolen identities to alternative realities revealing themselves, the thread of this collection is that one tiny misstep can undo everything, and the endings are not always resolved. There’s seldom a clear way out.

Jemc’s been compared to Shirley Jackson and Helen Oyeyemi, but the sadistic and grounded fables in this collection have raised Jemc into a place of her own.

Image: One World.

The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Mixing magic with dark reality and a vocabulary that exists on a higher, ethereal plane, Coates tells of devastating loss, daring escapes, the need for family, and the constant fight for freedom through a disgrace that has become so unimaginable to us today that we distance ourselves from it, see it far away in black and white, tuck it quietly in the closet where we never bring it out with our best china. Coates makes us face it, shielding the unimaginable behind poetry that you can’t quit devouring, and restoring humanity to those who had every dignity stripped from them. A powerful, necessary read.

LEAH ANGSTMAN serves as editor-in-chief for Alternating Current Press and The Coil magazine, a reviewer for Publishers Weekly, and a former copyeditor for Pacific Standard. Her work has appeared in Los Angeles Review of Books, The Rumpus, Tupelo Quarterly, Electric Literature, Slice Magazine, Nashville Review, and elsewhere. Find her at her website.

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.

Alternating Current Press

Written by

Indie press dedicated to lit that challenges readers & has a sense of self, timelessness, & atmosphere. Publisher of @CoilMag #CoilMag (

The Coil

The Coil

Literature to change your lightbulb.

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