Named after a fictional girls' etiquette handbook, Elissa Schappell's 2011 short story collection, Blueprints for Building Better Girls, offers a multi-perspectival, intergenerational portrait of American womanhood. Told with impressive care and patience, the eight stories of the collection inspire a familiar uncertainty at odds with the trite didactic moral lessons the title promises.
The protagonists of the stories are involved in an intricate web of acquaintance. Characters mentioned in passing in one story appear later as main subjects, all the while coping with the shattered illusion of safety that so often pushes people toward adulthood before their time. The collection is bookended with the stories of Heather, the "school slut" whom we see first as a teenager and later as a concerned mother. The six stories in between jump forward and backward in time, examining the characters' set expecations for their own lives versus the realities they face.
Lisa Kirvirist and John Ivanko's new cookbook, Farmstead Chef, is a great eco-activist resource that could easily be placed next to the novel you're reading on your nightstand. Not only is it plump with yummy, mostly vegetarian and low-on-the-food-chain recipes, but it also has inspiring stories from the authors' own lives dotted throughout the book, as well as profiles of other food activists and farmers in today's local foods landscape.
Claude Monet called Herman Bang's wartime Tine "the world's first Impressionist novel," floating as it does between characters, events, and chronology. Alexandra Harris' short, delightful book Virginia Woolf, published last fall, is a similarly Impressionist biography. The move to present Woolf—a writer who has been explored, revealed, questioned, adored, criticized, and lionized, over thousands and thousands of pages in the 70 years since her death—in just 192 pages and 10 chapters, is a bold one, to say the least.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be sent to a nonsensical, exclusive modeling school where girls acquire magical powers that allow them to convince people to buy useless products? Me neither. But Tyra Banks has.
Martha Grover has been publishing her zine Somnambulist since 2003. The first collection of this zine, One More for the People came out on Tuesday from Perfect Day Publishing, a small press based out of Portland, OR. Unlike other zine collections, One More for the People is not a linear anthologizing of Somnambulist, but instead a selection of writing from the zine along with some new work, allowing the book to stand alone in its own right.
One More for the People is a beautiful, substantial book, both in content and design. With letterpressed covers and thick paperstock there is an attention to detail that comes from being born out of the DIY/ zine community with its nostalgia for the tactile act of packaging words.
I asked Martha a few questions about her book, her zine, and how to keep reading her work.
Jeanette Winterson is probably the most quotable author I have ever read, especially for those of us who live passionately, love obsessively, and believe that art can (and will) change the world. If you ever want a cool literary tattoo just read one of her books—you are sure to find some kind of quote that resonates. With the release of her memoir Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? in October (in the U.K—official U.S release date is March 2012), the harsh reality of Winterson's upbringing stand out even more starkly against the layers of her non-linear, heavily metaphorical, fictional work.
"Our life here is just like an old horror movie," muses the loquacious, inscrutable Raquel Motherwell near the end of Rebecca Wolff's debut novel, The Beginners. "It's like the skeleton of the horror novel hanging in the closet with all the suits and dresses that we never wear. Young couple moves to small New England town. House drafty, locals suspicious. Strange friends, omens of doom. Unreliable narrator. Cows lowing in the fields, arcane pagan religious festivals."
The Beginners does play tantalizingly on Raquel's friendly and familiar formula for a hair-raising tale, though the reader learns early on that one shouldn't trust any story Raquel's telling. We also can't trust her husband, Theo. And to make matters worse, the unreliable narrator that Raquel so self-referentially mentions is actually neither Raquel nor Theo. That distinction belongs to Ginger Pritt, the precocious fifteen-year-old who guides us along her dreamy and sometimes sinister path of awakening in the tiny Massachusetts town of Wick.
What if the Rapture happened, but it wasn't like anyone had expected? In fact, what if "Rapture" might not be the right word, considering that the millions who vanished were of numerous different faiths and the date didn't align with anyone's holy texts? How would the people who lost everyone they loved live with their grief, and how would untouched families manage their guilt?
The Kirkus Review hails The Leftovers as Tom Perrotta's "most ambitious book," a claim that at first seems obvious for a writer whose previous works have centered on realistic suburban angst. However, despite its more imaginative set-up, The Leftovers is about exactly the same things as Perrotta's other novels: struggling to find contentment, doomed love affairs, and growing up.
Mary is not happy. Simply put, her husband, Joel, is a slob: He leaves garbage, wet towels, and dirty clothes around and ignores her (or, worse, tells her to "chillax") when she brings these habits up. At the start of the story, Mary decides to keep a tally of the times that Joel annoys her and the times he pleases her, with the goal of reevaluating their relationship after six months... and possibly ending it.
When Susie Bright decides to write a memoir, you know it's going to be big. Bright, often referred to as "Susie Sexpert" and even "The Godmother of Erotica," has made quite a name for herself. In addition to co-founding On Our Backs, the first magazine that featured lesbian erotica made by and for women, Bright founded and edited the Best of American Erotica series from 1993 until the last edition was published in 2008. Bright currently advocates for sexual freedom and equality through her audible.com podcast called In Bed With Susie Bright and has continued to edit eroticanthologies over the last few years. With her latest project, Big Sex Little Death, Susie Bright has provided us with a memoir that is as smart, colorful and unapologetic as her career continues to be.