Three new, buzzy books — but which one is ‘freakishly interesting?’
|Toronto Star 15 Jan 2020 at 10:39|
They’re creating a lot of buzz — but are the books everyone’s talking about (and buying) worth your reading time?
Such a Fun Age, Kiley Reid, G.P. Putnam’s Sons
This debut novel is engaging and smart, with great characters and a riveting story that deals with class, race, female friendship and the work we do. It is getting an enormous amount of buzz. Briefly: Two women, Alix (formerly Alex) is white, woke and media savvy, with the freedom to be a part-time mother while she develops her brand, which involves writing letters. Emira, Alix’s part-time babysitter to her daughter, Briar, is Black, poor and clueless about her future. The novel begins with a phone call late on a Saturday night from Alix to Emira, who is partying with her three girlfriends. Alix urgently needs (and expects) Emira to take Briar out of the house — something about a broken window and police on the way. Which is how Emira, 25, in slinky top, short skirt, a bit tipsy, and Briar, 2, ponytailed and adorable, find themselves at Market Depot (“a rich people grocery store”), where a security guard decides this young Black woman may have abducted the little white kid. And that’s just Chapter 1. The genius of this novel is that it tracks the subtle eddies of racism with steely even-handedness.
Consider This: Moments in My Writing Life After Which Everything Was Different, Chuck Palahniuk, Grand Central
Chuck Palahniuk is known for 1996’s “Fight Club” (mainly because of the film that followed it) but he has published prodigiously since — novels, stories, essays, even colouring books. He is among America’s most surprising authors (shocking isn’t too strong a word; he calls what he does “transgressive fiction”), and this collection of his writings about writing include a number of freakishly interesting anecdotes — like the time Stephen King’s hand started bleeding during a marathon signing, where are chapters that address craft, from ideas to execution. “Troubleshooting Your Fiction,” for example, offers advice for such problems as “Your Narrative Voice is Boring” and “Your Stories Meander and Ramble.” This book is a master class. It will make you a better writer. It will make you a better reader.
Serotonin, Michel Houellebecq, translated Shaun Whiteside, Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Michel Houellebecq is a French controversialist who is known for plopping the basest impulses of males onto the page — which means racist, sexist, vulgar and dismissive, which is to say determinedly politically incorrect. And yet he has an undeniable following. In his latest outing, our narrator is a world-weary chap who takes a daily dose of a serotonin-release antidepressant, which allows him to function in every way but sexually. In sum, one unhappy man as metaphor for the lamentable state in which Europe today finds itself.