After I read A REPLACEMENT LIFE, I was high off of it, telling everyone I knew who I deemed to have good taste that it was a must. I read some really fabulous books this summer—funny to be writing about them in December, I know—and luckily Boris Fishman’s debut was one of the first. I was trying to decide if there was some pathological explanation for why it took me nearly six months to jot down my thoughts, but that’s not important, what is important, is how amazing this book is. While that’s an embarrassing understatement, it’s the most succinct way I can express how I feel about this book. It’s definitely one of those hug-worthy books*. You know, the type that expresses nearly everything you’ve ever thought? A friend whose opinion I hold in high esteem recently dove into the tale and described it as “particular” and I couldn’t believe that in all of my internal musings, I hadn’t thought of that. She noted that each grammatical placement, each word choice, was so carefully situated, and to appreciate those subtleties, you have to be of the discerning kind. A REPLACEMENT LIFE is a novel for someone who appreciates the craft of writing, the texture and love of it. There are too many half-written and half-edited novels that are being churned out so constantly these days, and society just accepts that, which in effect, is applauding, mediocrity. So, to find one that sets itself apart, both stylistically and thematically, is a real treasure. Very rarely is there a symbiotic relationship between plot and prose that results in the reader getting exactly what they want. But alas, that is what you have with A REPLACEMENT LIFE.
*and saying that a book is “hug-worthy” is the biggest compliment I can give
Ah, the book that started it all. When I first nabbed an advanced copy of Francine’s book, I could hardly contain myself. How lucky had I been? From the very first page, the reader is transported to another time and another world. With language so rich and a narrative constructed in such a masterful and effortless way, this is the kind of book where you need and want to read each word. Now I know that this may seem a little controversial, but I think we can agree that there are books that you’re not really invested in, but are more “along for the ride.” LOVERS AT THE CHAMELEON CLUB, PARIS 1932 is not that kind of book. The interwoven paths of numerous true and distinct characters allowed for Prose to imagine what could have happened in their widely-speculated lives. Due to my inability to read jacket copy, I was unaware that this book was based in truth when I started it. While I ultimately feel kind of dumb for admitting that, I think my ignorance allowed me to appreciate LOVERS in a few different ways. If you didn’t know anything about its extrapolating nature, then it’s a very well-told story in its own right. But when you know that Prose took a nugget of truth and turned it into an epic, then you’ll applaud her even more. Sometimes I find that working within the confines of fact can be more difficult than starting from scratch. Some people think it’s actually freeing to work based off of history but I’ve got to think that it’s actually a very tough task. Regardless, LOVERS superbly tells a story of wartime, art, love, deception, human nature. It’s an absolute must.
I was a little surprised with myself when I picked up Mike Harvkey’s April release, In the Course of Human Events. The cover depicts a fist, bruised and encrusted in dried blood–in a word, it looks like a total dude book. *insert conversation about marketing to gender stereotypes here* But my interest was definitely piqued and as someone who considers herself a varied reader, I picked it up. Luckily. As the first book I read this summer (okay, late spring), I knew that I was off to a really great start. Following the downward spiral of our antihero Clyde Twitty, who I found kind of lovable, Harvkey illuminates the Midwest’s rampant radicalism, which emerged amidst a desperate time. I simply couldn’t ask for anything else from this debut–a razor sharp social commentary written in the keen tone of a seasoned writer. Some parts of the novel made me cringe, which is something anyone who’s read the book can agree with, and that’s a great thing. How real does a book have to be to make the reader feel those feelings? Really real. In the Course of Human Events is so truthful, it will make all other debuts cry, wishing they were this good.
This look is very loosely based on In the Course of Human Events, only in so far as, the grit of the spot where my mom and I shot was evocative of the story’s setting and what’s more middle America than a denim jacket? Nothing. Okay, maybe rock t-shirts, but that’s it.
*to those new to the blog, or for those who just need a refresher, bookplates is a series where i create ensembles inspired by the books i’m discussing. sometimes it’s an element of a look or something silly from the story, but is, nonetheless, reflected in what i’m wearing. enjoy!*
I’ll admit, I was embarrassingly late to the game, only learning of Ted Thompson when I read his article in Salon, which I found to be refreshingly honest. Afterwards, I built up an expectation that this book was going to be good, as in really freaking good, and I wholeheartedly loathe constructing these sorts of expectations. But to read The Land of Steady Habits is to love it. It’s a really rare occasion that I pick up a book and think–to myself and out loud–”This is why I love reading,” and “This is why books matter”–The Land of Steady Habits is such a book. I may have even told my mom that I loved this book so much that I wanted to hug it, which I actually did…repeatedly. In this spirit of Ted’s tweet (see below), let me just say that The Land of Steady Habits is a game changer. It’s the epitome of a perfect debut (no pressure): beautifully written with the kind of skilled and poignant observations that make you wonder how the author could be so normal. Okay so maybe that’s a weird thing to say, but when you read this book, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. I’m officially cutting myself off now; I think I got everything in…
discovering an amazing book is thrilling. really, there’s no other way to describe it. but it’s even more exciting when the person who wrote said book is the dearest of dear friends. enter susan jane gilman and THE ICE CREAM QUEEN OF ORCHARD OF STREET, which was released in mid-june. let me preface the rest of this post by saying by saying that this is one of the best books i’ve read all year and certainly one of my all-time favorites. the story of lillian dunkle and her journey to becoming the icon of frozen treats in america. from her humble beginnings as a young russian immigrant, abandoned by her kin and taken in by a family of italian ice makers, to artfully expensing her extravagant purchases after her husband’s death, at every point,
malka lillian did what she needed to do, even if it meant crushing those around her. while the average reader may, at times, find themselves frustrated with our heroine, i constantly found myself understanding her actions even if they appeared a little extreme. what made this narrative even more exceptional is susie’s profound understanding of her characters and the masterful way in which she writes them. at the conclusion of THE ICE CREAM QUEEN OF ORCHARD STREET i was ultimately very sad that i had finished it, and have become jealous of anyone who gets to read it for the first time. it’s a powerful book that can instill those kinds of emotions. oh, and i kind of feel like an ice cream cone in this outfit, just sayin’.