I decided to read more non-YA, non-romance, non-mystery, non-whatever-other-adjectival-qualifier fiction this. You know: the stuff makes people haul out the L-Word.
It started as a kind of “eat-your-vegetables” thing, where I resolved to broaden my horizons. But it turned out to be pretty delightful. Thanks to everyone who gave me these recommendations.
Dare Me by Megan Abbott. This book explores the world of high school girls, in a way that’s real and beautiful and honest. No pearl-clutching over sex or drugs or jealousy or nastiness. Narrated by Addy, the story follows the year when the girls on the cheerleading squad get a new coach. Brutal and funny and fucked up in so many subtle ways, Addy and her friends leap off the page. Can’t wait to plunge through the rest of Abbott’s novels.
Love Me Back by Merritt Tierce. A barn-burner of a debut. Here, Marie Young is a failed parent and wife whose unapologetic journey through sex and drugs and self-destruction is a view of female characters we don’t get to see.
Man V. Nature: Stories by Diane Cook. I love short stories but seem to forget this when I’m looking for something to read. These are some juicy crazy weird-ass stories. I don’t know what to say beyond that except I read the whole collection in like 3 days. Super fun.
Sweetness #9 by Stephan Eirik Clark. Brilliant book for anyone whose read The Omnivore’s Dilemma or other books about local eating and industrial food production. Following flavor chemist David Levereaux, we see how generations of food science and trends affect one family. Funny in a dark and distinct way, you’ll be at minimum cocking a wary eyebrow at everything you see in the supermarket.
Portrait of a Young Man Drowning by Charles Perry. So I read this book because it was the source material of a movie Norman Reedus was in, which I haven’t seen. Dunno if I want to see it, actually. But the book was fucking fabulous. It’s about this white boy who grows up in New York and gets caught up in street gangs and his creepy relationship with his awful overbearing mother. The voice sucked me in; I absolutely loved it.
Arcadia by Lauren Groff. If your book has intentional communities or utopian hippie communes, chances are good that I’ll want to read it. That shit fascinates me. This one is told from the eyes of a little boy who grows up in one and it’s delicious and juicy and freaky and gross.
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Well, everyone read this, so that doesn’t make me super original, but I will always read anything Donna Tartt puts out. This one took a bit to get going – a lot of L-word fiction has this issue, of course – but once I settled into all the extended description and what not, I was pretty happy. Boris, of course, was the character I fascinated on; Theo was very much a form of The Secret History’s Richard Pappen, which isn’t bad, of course, but they made a nice pair.
Candy by Luke Davies. Like intentional communities, if your book is about heroin or addiction, then I’m probably going to check it out. Candy is the source material for one of the last movies made by Heath Ledger. This is a fucking awful, relentless story that I couldn’t put down. The thing that is astonishing about addiction is how goddamn difficult it is. It’s not an easy life, pursuing the big high. It’s more work than any other job I can imagine and the horror involved is tenfold. Couldn’t look away, couldn’t put it down.
Redeployment by Phil Klay. A 2014 National Book Award Winner. Goddamn, this was a great bunch of stories. Tore through it in about a day, and even that was me holding back, trying to savor and not devour through it. Each story its own universe of the war experience or the veteran experience. I also love war stories and books about military life and this one is one of the best I’ve ever read.