Dear book of matches,
I have read “The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction” for the past few years, but I cannot find satisfaction contemporary literary fiction. I think the publishing world’s obsession with New York City is pompous and a little smug. I have found great solace over the past decade reading and viewing the Old Mysteries of Agatha Christie. I have read most of Louise Penny’s books. I’m not at all interested in Lauren Beukes. I am delighted with Edward Carey. I prefer Helen Oyeyemi and other writers of fairy-derived stories to anything tired and anxious. I’m particularly opposed to the books about young New York men trying to score. Or rich young women trying to score. Or complicated family dramas involving trust funds. Or culinary porn. I relish satire. I saw “Get Out” and loved it. I am also a huge fan of “South Park” and I love playing Magic: The Gathering, the collectible card game. Go figure it out.
If you were to draw a Venn diagram for your reading habits – with a circle each for speculative fiction, well-drawn mysteries, and satire – the categories would overlap in small, but vivid segments. Your propensities to read (and your equally compelling dislikes) don’t need to overlap; many books fit perfectly into the same genre. But wouldn’t it be adorable if a few of your interests lined up in a book or two?
Once upon a time
Victor LaValle’s modern, tender and monstrous fairy tale “The Changeling” might be a book for you, but you will need to overcome your antipathy to literary representations of New York City, the scope of the book. It’s worth it. Throughout the history of rare book seller and new parent Apollo Kagwa’s nightmarish and suspenseful search for his wife and son, cross-cultural folklore and familiar stories fly (“Out There” by Maurice Sendak takes a star turn). But the whole horror story is rooted deeply in thorny real-world technology, race issues, and politics.
Many of Kathryn Davis’ novels have what you’re looking for: beautiful phrases, real fantastic stories, surprise. The suspense rises from the pleasantly disorienting first pages of his books. In “The Thin Place”, the backdrop is a rural New England town teeming with animals and characters that drift between the natural world and a dreamlike airplane. In “Duplex,” in a typical, albeit futuristic, suburban block, robots and wizards mingle with ordinary people, and time and space are delightfully elastic: “The passage of time made no sense to robots. ; their clairvoyance stretched back and forth in a way that had nothing to do with it.
More enchantment lies in the deadpan of Kelly Link, the alluring collection of “Magic for Beginners” short stories, though angst haunts these pages as well. A teenage girl in love searches for her grandmother’s missing handbag; children of a witch yearn for a happy life. Link is a master of teenage conscience – convenience store ethics and pop cultural references included – with the added charm of parallel dimensions.
Murder they wrote
Two unconventional mysteries mix genre conventions with unexpected stylistic twists. In Kate Racculia’s “Bellweather Rhapsody”, two mysterious murders took place 15 years apart at the same grand but seedy hotel that anchors the book, which is chock-full of dramatic plot points and backstory stories. Despite the glut of violent deaths, the story in the foreground – twin musicians Rabbit and Alice Hatmaker attend a high school music festival – remains a wacky coming-of-age story for siblings entangled in a murder.
Ben H. Winters’ apocalyptic detective novel “The Last Policeman” contains a heartbreaking element of science fiction that elevates it beyond typical procedure. In Concord, New Hampshire, a young police officer named Hank Palace remains stubbornly devoted to solving the mystery of a single hanging death, even though it is just one of countless suicides in the world taking place amid a universal sense of impending doom: six months from the opening of the book, a giant asteroid will crash into Earth. The harsh speech and barbaric humor of the cops seems extremely poignant as the final days approach.
Paul Beatty’s radical satire “The Sellout” cuts through the history of the race in America with a linguistic bravado that is both barbed and pleasant, brimming with puns and long chains of cultural associations. Blink your eyes and you will have to reread whole, significantly rhythmic sentences (“antebellum vellum”, “satsumas and segregation”) and paragraphs about a contemporary African American male slave (with the surname Me), his agrarian childhood. near Los Angeles and the details of the case that brought him to the Supreme Court. Redoubling to piece together the wild and shocking ideas is almost a requirement, but it’s also part of the fun.
Do you need book recommendations? Write to [email protected].
Check out previous Match Book recommendations here.