Some Books I Have Been Reading Lately

I am in Seattle for about five minutes, thinking about absolutely nothing other than the next Dabob oyster I am going to stuff in my face and the next FOUR DOLLAR OLD OVERHOLT WELL (!!!!!!) I am going to pour down my throat and completing Sue Grafton's entire catalog (seriously, how is Kinsey Millhone so awesome? Those books never get old), but I did do a lot of other reading in the last few months, I swear. (Why is everyone in Seattle trying to fucking say hello to me all the time, do I look friendly, no I certainly do not.) (I desperately miss vegetables that are not shrinkwrapped in plastic but not quite enough to move back here but man, those are some fine fine vegetables they got at the Ballard Farmer's Market.) Do yourself a favor and go out and read all of these at once, why don't you.


Natalie Diaz
When My Brother Was An Aztec
124pp. Copper Canyon. 9781556593833
Oh my GOD, Natalie DIAZ, oh my GOD. This book is so fucking good, so perfect, like mumble-to-yourself-on-the-train good, like every poem is a complete world that guts you good, like, I can't even. Imagine me turning around in circles and waving my arms. I know that's not an actual book review or whatever but it seems sort of insulting to act as though I am smart enough to say anything worthwhile about this book. Just go read it and then thank me later. You keep your eye on Natalie Diaz, y'all, because she is going to be hells famous. You can read a great interview with her here.


Helen Zahavi
Dirty Weekend
Imagine if TGWTDT was a. actually feminist b. actually funny c. actually written by an actual lady and not some sleazy creeper jonesing for a Lara Croft of his very own OH WAIT, SOMEBODY WROTE THIS BOOK ALREADY, in 1991 no less. I cannot even tell you how fucking funny and dark and brilliant Dirty Weekend is or how satisfying it is to read As A Lady. "This is the story of Bella, who woke up one morning and realized she'd had enough," and holy shit, has she. Hat tip to Elizabeth Hand, who recommended this (how had I never read it before?!). It is out of print, I think, but you can track it down on The Behemoth To Which I Will Not Link, or find it in your local used bookstore, hint hint.


Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi
Fra Keeler
128pp. Dorothy. 9780984469345
Fra Keeler takes place more or less entirely in the labyrinthine corridors of its nameless narrator's mind, and it's a delicious, intensely paranoid thriller that ranges wildly between dark humor and total claustrophobia. I kept thinking of HP Lovecraft's hyperparanoid, whacked-out narrators (though there are no sea-stinky aliens in Oloomi's compact, restrained, and elegant book). You can read an excerpt here.


Cory Taylor
Me and Mr. Booker
216pp. Tin House. 9781935639367
Tin House has been knocking it out of the park lately (I also loved, loved, loved Alexis Smith's brilliant, gorgeous Glaciers, VĂ©ronique Olmi's devastating Beside the Sea, and Leni Zumas's very dark, very sharp The Listeners), and Me and Mr. Booker is the latest in this line of gems. The story of Martha, a wisecracking and deeply jaded 16-year-old in small-town Australia who takes up an affair with the very much older, very married, and very alcoholic Mr. Booker out of a wild desire to be anywhere other than where she is, Me and Mr. Booker is a perfect balance of relentlessly funny and deeply sad. Martha is a fabulous and immensely engaging narrator, and Cory Taylor effortlessly pulls off the neat and nearly impossible trick of making the reader understand what she sees in Mr. Booker even as we see right through him.


Suzanne Scanlon
Promising Young Women
160pp. Dorothy. 9780984469352
Like Fra Keeler , Promising Young Women is from Danielle Dutton's exceptional small press Dorothy, A Publishing Project --and like Fra Keeler, it's brilliant. Promising Young Women is a series of loosely interconnected stories sort-of-narrated by "Lizzie," a young woman repeatedly institutionalized for depression; but Lizzie shifts throughout the book as much as the narrative itself does, resulting in a dreamlike, polyphonic pastiche. Scanlon brilliantly undermines the narrative of "girls with problems," even as she reconstructs it. You can read an excerpt here. (And Danielle Dutton clearly has such impeccable taste I cannot wait to spend the next couple of months gleefully devouring Dorothy's backlist.)


Cornelia Read
A Field of Darkness
336pp. Grand Central. 9780446699495
I fortuitously stumbled across Cornelia Read's debut during my neverending search for Crack-Like But Intelligent Books That Are Sort Of Like The Secret History, and finished it last night at three in the morning, chewing on my fingers in a frenzy of anxiety. Cornelia Read has packed in all my favorite things: a smartassed and scrappy lady narrator, Sketchy Rich People, compulsively readable plotting--even larger social commentary, worked in with a subtle point. And apparently the sequel includes Sketchy Rich People AND Creepy Boarding School? COUNT ME IN.