A Brief Look at the Future
Carriage Return, week of 5/16/2017
Carriage Return is The Ribbon’s round-up of recent Literati Bookstore staff favorites, as well as an occasional place for useful links and news from around the literary web regarding upcoming events at the store.
Tuesday is new book day at the store, and while there is no shortage of new exciting titles out today (for instance, just check out our Instagram Story), several titles come out next month that Literati Booksellers want you to know about well in advance. An overview below, plus a contemporary classic now out in paperback!
Coming Next Month (In Hardcover)
Magpie Murders, by Anthony Horowitz
As a huge fan of 2014’s Moriarty, it didn’t surprise me that Anthony Horowitz managed to create his own, instantly iconic version of an Agatha Christie detective in Magpie Murders. What did surprise me was discovering that novel stuffed, like a Russian nesting doll, into a second novel concerning a book editor convinced that the suicide of her most lucrative client — the arrogant mystery writer responsible for the Christie homage — was really murder. Yes, this have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too approach is awfully, often deliciously clever, but Horowitz knows that the best whodunits are more than puzzles to be solved. I relished every plot twist, but it’s the novel’s insights into fame, privacy, and fiction-making itself that kept me turning pages. — Sam
You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, by Sherman Alexie
To say that I was moved by Sherman Alexie’s memoir is a terrible understatement; in fact, there is a pulse in this book that has worked its way into my being and irrevocably changed how I think about my own life. Alexie’s kaleidoscopic approach to storytelling is so representative of the feeling of being human, with childhood memory, relationships, love, trauma, and art all moving in and out of focus at once. At the center of You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me is a deep grieving, for Alexie’s mother, for the ways in which parental love is imperfect, for unthinkable personal and cultural traumas. But Alexie’s brilliance is in holding multiple truths, that one can experience simultaneously both trauma and hope, grief and humor, violence and love. I, like Alexie, “tend to fall in love with the unnamable,” that nebulous complexity at the heart of the human experience that can only be understood by holding on to all of the pieces of your life at once, a practice both beautiful and terrifying. Alexie achieves this exquisitely, and You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me is an unforgettable work. — Kelsey
Marriage of a Thousand Lies, by SJ Sindu
I am always looking for a book that absorbs me more than daily life while addressing the very issues in my daily life (love, cultural divide, family, friendship). Marriage of a Thousand Lies captivated me to the point that I finished it in almost a day. There is a comfort in the familiarity of its overarching plot (forbidden love you want to root for; a family that just doesn’t understand), that never feels stale because of the humor and precision of Sindu’s prose, the depth of her characters’ emotional arcs, and her commitment to fully exploring the intersections of Sri-Lankan ethnicity, queerness, and gender. Lesser books may have reached for simple answers and sunset happy endings, but I never felt like Lucky’s problems were easily solved, nor that her dilemmas were black-and-white. To the very last page I felt the full scope of the unique (and also, at times, universal) complications of being Lucky, and when I closed the book, I thought of this fictional character’s journey towards love and growth and freedom as if she were a flesh-and-blood friend I might know in my daily life. — Lillian
Out Next Month (In Paperback)
Kingdom Cons, by Yuri Herrera
Yuri Herrera’s Kingdom Cons is most simply a ballad about Lobo the balladeer, the soon-to-be-fallen King who takes him in, and the disaffected Commoner who makes Lobo question his own authenticity, and the authenticity of the supposed idyllic compound they all loosely occupy. But this razor sharp and inimitable novel — crafted in a way that resembles fable, and in doing so suggests that many of our stories live still within a fable’s uncanny, timeless, morally unclear architecture — is also a near-nihilist tour through the Narco mansions and the nearby towns of the contemporary world. It is a novella set along the border — the border between two particular countries, yes, but also between worlds, between possibilities, and between ways of seeing. All of which Herrera’s work has been bringing us closer and closer to. — John
Out Today (In Paperback)
Zero K, by Don DeLillo
“Things people do, ordinarily, forgettably, things that breathe just under the surface of what we acknowledge having in common. I want these gestures, these moments to have meaning, check the wallet, check the keys, something that draws us together, implicitly, lock and relock the front door, inspect the burners on the stove for dwindling blue flame or seeping gas.”
Don DeLillo said recently that his work is about “living in dangerous times.” This appears no different in his latest, Zero K, set in a near future or parallel present where the terror of the Anthropocene — ecological disaster, biosphere die-off, resource war, strife upon endless strife — has taken firm root, and where Jeffery Lockhart’s father and stepmother have come to a secluded, stateless desert compound inside of which an afterlife (from civilization’s collapse, from history, “from reasonableness,” from death) is hurriedly being invented by technocrats, elite conceptual artists, and moneyed syncretic gurus.
Essayist Roy Scranton has argued that “the biggest problem we face is a philosophical one: understanding that this civilization is already dead,” that we must “get down to the hard work of adapting, with mortal humility” in lieu of hoping for something like ‘more time.’ Against growing waves of technological solutionism both here on our earth and masterfully imagined in Zero K, DeLillo, through the yearning, searching Jeffery Lockhart, ponders the possibility that true adaptation means embracing our simple, mortal everydays, whether in the present moment or in memory.
This is DeLillo turning away from the opportunity for the densely plotted, wondrous excess of fictions past and toward something else, and it is rarer, gentler and glory-filled. On the bedrock of his familiarly anxious worldview he delivers a stunning meditation on familial love, the self, and most critically for our time, the necessity of death in the light of the one gift of life preceding it.
DeLillo has long been cast as too-prescient prophet of untidy futures, tinkerer of their heady concepts, a cleric of postmodernity. Here, now, he is the clearest, calmest posthuman writer of our times. — John