It’s a lovely day (I don’t honestly know, I’m writing this over the weekend), so let’s take this opportunity to draw our collective attention to some great books and/or articles by men and women who, for whatever reason (a damn good one) are in our hearts and minds right now. Let’s start, and let’s try to focus on their writing and accomplishments. You can signal boost anyone’s work you want.
Khakpour is a super-talented Iranian-American writer whose first novel, Sons and Other Flammable Objects, was a New York Times Editor’s Choice pick, and got her compared to “a young Philip Roth,” which for me is actually a plus, but only when the writer in question is a woman, because there are plenty of young dudes who think they are Philip Roth wandering around busily. Her NEW novel, The Last Illusion, is tearing it UP, and I have purchased it and am incredibly excited by it. Oh, and she also guest-edited Guernica‘s all Iranian-American issue a few years back, you can read that too:
I wanted geographic diversity (West and East coasts, plus the Southwest, with writers submitting from Tehran to London), an array of generations (our youngest writer is thirty; our oldest, sixty-five), and a range of experience, from lesser-known up-and-comers to heavily championed veterans (from zero books to six books). I wanted the recognition of legacy (Nahid Rachlin, our first Iranian-American published fiction writer who held Stanford’s Wallace Stegner Fellowship in fiction before the Revolution) and a subversion of expectations (Hooman Majd, a celebrated nonfiction writer whose excellent reportage and commentary have deservedly landed him many talk-show-pundit stints, here writes in a genre he has rarely published in, which agents and editors originally steered him away from: his first love, fiction). I wanted aesthetic eclecticism, from Amir Parsa’s genre-defying, acrobatic prose to Azadeh Moaveni’s intensely observant narrative nonfiction. I wanted comedy (Iraj Isaac Rahmim’s rollicking fantasies in modern-day Tehran) and tragedy (Sholeh Wolpé’s poignant coming-of-age fairy tale gone awry). I wanted a range in their very Iranianness and Americanness: Sayrafiezadeh’s and Fathi’s pieces show no traces of their Iranian roots, while over a third of the others go back entirely to Iran. I wanted the mythic Iran of Roger Sedarat’s ghost horses set against the more familiar, gritty realism of life in the country today. I wanted to capture the extraordinary scope that defines this young-diaspora-with-an-ancient-culture’s literature.
SO, you know, pretty cool woman, really.
Emily Gould! Man, I like Emily Gould. First of all, Emily Gould is my complete opposite in terms of expressing how she feels about things directly and having great confidence in her own taste and judgment, and I am frequently wrong about things she’s correct about. Like my addiction to buying things via Amazon, for example, which I am shamed by whenever I get the latest installment from Emily Books, which is a doughty little company she runs with her friend Ruth Curry selling e-books that are selected with unbelievable care, and are always completely wonderful. We’ve talked about a bunch of them on the site, and would talk about them more if I wasn’t a lot lazier than Emily.
Emily has also written a YA novel called Hex Education that you can probably find if you look hard enough, it is from The Long Long Ago, a collection of personal essays called And The Heart Says Whatever, which is how I met Emily, because I thought it was great and moving and sent her an email about it before I blogged or knew anyone or was a person of any kind. And, as of this year, her novel Friendship, which I read immediately and really enjoyed. It’s about money and the relationships between women and that sense of not being where you thought you should be, which are likely familiar ideas and emotions to you, and I really do think you should read it. It is also a book whose debut week got FUCKED UP by some straight nonsense, and Emily wrote about that here.
You may be mainly familiar with Emily from hearing her described as a “controversial blogger,” which she has not been in some time, but remains “controversial” largely as a result of saying shit forcefully in public when she needs to and once having posed in bed with her laptop for a magazine.
I have never heard anyone (okay, one person) say a bad word against Rachel Fershleiser, who represents for books on the internet like an avenging angel who is also very nice. So nice, in fact, that when I asked her what I could signal boost, she just gave me a list of books she loves:
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson, After Birth by Elisa Albert, The Girls From Corona Del Mar by Rufi Thorpe, So Much Pretty by Cara Hoffman, Dept of Speculation by Jenny Offill, Nina MacLaughlin and her forthcoming book Hammer Head, Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.
She also loves Meg Wolitzer, Maile Meloy, Helen Oyeyemi, Tana French, Rainbow Rowell, Emily Gould, Edan Lepucki, Elizabeth McCracken, Emma Straub, Roxane Gay, Jennifer Close, Katie Coyle, and Julie Buntin.
Lennon has a collection of short stories coming out in early November, See You in Paradise, which is getting GREAT early buzz, and you might also enjoy his novel Familiar (he has written SEVEN novels, and a previous collection of short fiction, Pieces for the Left Hand, which I think is an unnecessary amount of writing to have accomplished and makes me feel a crippling sense of personal inadequacy.)
Oh, and one of his novels got yanked and had to be serialized out of concerns that Big Doll, a lesser-known cousin of Big Pharma, might sue. How fascinating!
I know what you nerds like, and it’s non-fiction accounts of creepy New England ghost towns known for grisly murders. Right? Well, then you’ll enjoy Dogtown. You may also become moderately obsessed with the ghost town in question:
Q. Dogtown became a creepy no man’s land after the 1984 murder of a woman named Anne Natti. Do outsiders visit?
A. Dogtown’s dark time is over, thanks to the community’s efforts to clean it up after Natti’s murder. It’s something of a miracle that the area has remained a safe, peaceful wilderness where people can go to escape everyday life, but that happened because enough Cape Ann people wanted the area to stay that way. More people started visiting Dogtown after the publication of Anita Diamant’s novel The Last Days of Dogtown [in 2005], but it isn’t necessarily “on the map.” Dogtown remains a “shadow” [of Gloucester] for introspection and peace because it’s the opposite of the city and the coast and their more vibrant energies.
RIGHT? It’s spooky, Halloween is coming, I’m not going to tell you what to do.
6. Michele Filgate
Michele does a whole bunch of things (here’s her newest essay in Brooklyn Quarterly, “Navigating Fear,” by the way), and is, like Rachel, relentless about promoting the work of female writers and booksellers, and I bet you would enjoy following her on Twitter. If you live in or near Brooklyn, you should consider acquiring the fine books we’ve discussed today via her Community Bookstore.
Nicole is an Editor of The Toast.