What would you do if you believed you had only 10 days to live? Now, what would you do if your dad thought that and in response sent scathing emails to all his family members about how they should better live their lives? That’s the premise of Annie Liontas’ novel Let Me Explain You, told from the perspective of a proud Greek restaurant owner, his two daughters, and the many other voices that come together to create “a big, rollicking, tender novel with a truly original comic voice,” as described by celebrated short story writer George Saunders. Join Liontas for a conversation with Dana Spiotta, author of Stone Arabia. Buy a copy of Let Me Explain You or a $15 strand gift card to attend the event, which will admit one person.
If you’re around my age, and were an equally uncool child, the nineties were an unmitigated fashion disaster: stretchy black bellbottoms and puffer-jacket vests, and indefensibly ugly platform sneakers (seriously, did you have those in America? Erryone in New Zealand was all about that shit. I blame the Spice Girls). Heck, even Carrie Bradshaw was making someway out weird fashion choices. But Maureen Callahan clearly has a different recollection of the era, and has published a book to prove it. In Champagne Supernovas! she presents a look at the “exciting fashion trends” of the 90s (what could this mean? fashion bindis? mood rings?). Callahan focuses her rose-tinted lenses on Kate Moss, Alexander McQueen and Marc Jacobs: leading lights of the star-studded grunge era, when—apparently—the alternative went mainstream. Callahan will be defending her thesis against Susannah Cahalan, author of Brain on Fire.
Dear Committee Members, Julie Schumacher’s eighth novel, is an epistolary satire of academia that has been earning—as the title of a Slate review puts it, “Strongest possible endorsement.” Made up of letters of recommendation written by a beleaguered literature professor (whose promising career in fiction is now just a fading memory), the book is a bitingly witty portrait of a dying English department and the embittered man who dwells in its decomposing innards. As Professor Fitger writes his oft-counterproductive endorsements, his letters slowly become more unbalanced and autobiographical, giving the reader glimpses into his past. Praised as a “mordant minor masterpiece,” by NPR, it sounds like the sort of book you should perhaps hurry up and finish during the summer—when the worn-out cynicism of the letter-writing professor seems more removed from the reality of your everyday working life. Schumacher will be joined in discussion by Ethan Rutherford, author of The Peripatetic Coffin and Other Stories.
This week’s talks and readings: some heavy stuff, ending in laughs.
Wednesday, July 30
The Gatekeepers Screening
When The Gatekeepers was first released in 2012, NY Times film critic A.O. Scott recognized the Israeli documentary’s import. “It is hard,” he wrote, “to imagine a movie about the Middle East that could be more timely, more painfully urgent, more challenging to conventional wisdom on all sides of the conflict.” Several years later, as the war in Gaza stretches into its third week with no signs of abating, that urgency has if anything only become more pronounced. More →
Time again for Word Up, our weekly roundup of readings and talks worth getting up and out of the house for.
Thursday, July 10
Emily Gould and Elif Batuman
Gawker blogger turned memoirist Emily Gould’s new novel, Friendship, is about (you guessed it) a young Brooklyn blogger whose boyfriend happens to keep a studio in Greenpoint’s Pencil Factory. “Amy loved visiting Sam there, seeing all the other artists in the hallways and on the roof,” Gould writes. “It was so cheering to know that there were still people who made their living by creating physical things—even if some of them were commercial illustrators and graphic designers. Well, Sam wasn’t, anyway! He was just a guy who made giant oil paintings of Cuisinarts.” She’ll be discussing fiction and friendship with Elif Batuman, who has written for the likes of The New Yorker and n+1, and is the author of The Possessed.
7pm, McNally Jackson Books (52 Prince St). FREE.
When she was nineteen, Nicole C. Kear was told she was going blind. Advised that she had only ten more years of sight left, Kear determined to spend them wildly—keeping her deteriorating vision a secret from most acquaintances and running away to join a circus. But it’s tricky to run forever, and with the birth of her children Kear finally came to accept her encroaching blindness.Now I See You is the story of this personal journey—you can read an excerpt of the memoir on The Cut. Kear will be in conversation at Strand Bookstore with Pushcart Prize winner Emily Raboteau (The Professor’s Daughter and Searching for Zion).
Apparently it’s International Crime Month. That sounds like a recipe for global anarchy and intrigue, but is instead an opportunity for various publishing houses to introduce the (under-read?) genre of international crime writing to a broader audience. Marc Pastor is a Catalan master of the form, and his gothic book Barcelona Shadows has been recently translated into English to critical acclaim. Join the author for a discussion of “a book that makes the reader doubt the sanity of life itself,” and see whether crime fiction could be your new go-to.