Percival Everett has made a name for himself as one of the most astute and inventive commentators on race in America. His novel Trees (see Grace Notes, February 2023) mashed up horror, buddy cop tropes, and social justice polemic. His 2022 novel Dr. No been called a “sharp-witted satire about racism, violence and academia.” (Michael Schaub, NPR)
It is easy to dismiss the relevance of fairy tales, fables, myths, and ghost stories on modern lives. The ordinariness of everyday life is, for most of us, anything but mythological. We don’t see ourselves as heroes of our own existences. But sometimes, just the act of being human, of doing what it takes to be alive and connected in a complicated, violent, awe-inspiring world, can be the stuff of legend.
This month, I’m pointing the lens at experimental fiction, with all the permutations that the label implies. These are books that push boundaries when it comes to plot, point of view, form, language, and in some cases, even typography.
Fall is here, and it’s the perfect season to curl up with a great thriller. Even more perfect if that thriller is written with a deep literary sensibility and an eagle eye on world events.
Such a book is Birnam Wood by Eleanor Catton. Set in the seemingly idyllic environs of New Zealand, it is a tragic story of how idealism can be too easily coopted.
August is a great time for a road trip. In a few days, my partner and I will saddle up the ol’ Prius and ride off into our own summer adventure.
Literary road trips come in as many varieties as there are lines on the highway. From dark and apocalyptic to wondrous and awe-inspiring to breezy and carefree, a good journey read is the best traveling companion.