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Lauren Oyler's Picks!

Against Everything: Essays

Against Everything: Essays

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Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award

The essays in Against Everything are learned, original, highly entertaining, and, from start to finish, dead serious, reinventing and reinvigorating what intellectuals can be and say and do. Key topics are the tyranny of exercise, the folly of food snobbery, the sexualization of childhood (and everything else), the philosophical meaning of pop music, the rise and fall of the hipster, the uses of reality TV, the impact of protest movements, and the crisis of policing. Four of the selections address, directly and unironically, the meaning of life--how to find a philosophical stance to adopt toward one's self and the world. Mark Greif manages to revivify the thought and spirit of the greatest of American dissenters, Henry David Thoreau, for our time and historical situation.

NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY:
The Guardian - The Atlantic - New York Magazine - San Francisco Chronicle - Paris Review - National Post (Canada)

Longlisted for the 2017 PEN Diamonson-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay

ERASURE

ERASURE

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Percival Everett's blistering satire about race and writing, available again in paperback

Thelonious Monk Ellison's writing career has bottomed out: his latest manuscript has been rejected by seventeen publishers, which stings all the more because his previous novels have been critically acclaimed. He seethes on the sidelines of the literary establishment as he watches the meteoric success of We's Lives in Da Ghetto, a first novel by a woman who once visited some relatives in Harlem for a couple of days. Meanwhile, Monk struggles with real family tragedies--his aged mother is fast succumbing to Alzheimer's, and he still grapples with the reverberations of his father's suicide seven years before.

In his rage and despair, Monk dashes off a novel meant to be an indictment of Juanita Mae Jenkins's bestseller. He doesn't intend for My Pafology to be published, let alone taken seriously, but it is--under the pseudonym Stagg R. Leigh--and soon it becomes the Next Big Thing. How Monk deals with the personal and professional fallout galvanizes this audacious, hysterical, and quietly devastating novel.

GO WENT GONE

GO WENT GONE

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Go, Went, Gone is the masterful new novel by the acclaimed German writer Jenny Erpenbeck, "one of the most significant German-language novelists of her generation" (The Millions). The novel tells the tale of Richard, a retired classics professor who lives in Berlin. His wife has died, and he lives a routine existence until one day he spies some African refugees staging a hunger strike in Alexanderplatz. Curiosity turns to compassion and an inner transformation, as he visits their shelter, interviews them, and becomes embroiled in their harrowing fates. Go, Went, Gone is a scathing indictment of Western policy toward the European refugee crisis, but also a touching portrait of a man who finds he has more in common with the Africans than he realizes. Exquisitely translated by Susan Bernofsky, Go, Went, Gone addresses one of the most pivotal issues of our time, facing it head-on in a voice that is both nostalgic and frightening.
Last Samurai

Last Samurai

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Helen DeWitt's 2000 debut, The Last Samurai, was "destined to become a cult classic" (Miramax). The enterprising publisher sold the rights in twenty countries, so "Why not just, 'destined to become a classic?'" (Garth Risk Hallberg) And why must cultists tell the uninitiated it has nothing to do with Tom Cruise?

Sibylla, an American-at-Oxford turned loose on London, finds herself trapped as a single mother after a misguided one-night stand. High-minded principles of child-rearing work disastrously well. J. S. Mill (taught Greek at three) and Yo Yo Ma (Bach at two) claimed the methods would work with any child; when these succeed with the boy Ludo, he causes havoc at school and is home again in a month. (Is he a prodigy, a genius? Readers looking over Ludo's shoulder find themselves easily reading Greek and more.) Lacking male role models for a fatherless boy, Sibylla turns to endless replays of Kurosawa's masterpiece Seven Samurai. But Ludo is obsessed with the one thing he wants and doesn't know: his father's name. At eleven, inspired by his own take on the classic film, he sets out on a secret quest for the father he never knew. He'll be punched, sliced, and threatened with retribution. He may not live to see twelve. Or he may find a real samurai and save a mother who thinks boredom a fate worse than death.

Long Live the Post Horn!

Long Live the Post Horn!

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A brilliant study of the mundane, full of unexpected detours and driving prose. Hjorth's novel ingeniously orbits the intimate stories that are possible only when a character has put words on paper and sent them through the post. - New York Times Book Review, "The Best Post Office Novel You Will Read Before the Election"

Vigdis Hjorth is one of my favorite contemporary writers. - Sheila Heti, author of Motherhood and How Should a Person Be?

From the author of the 2019 National Book Award Longlisted Will and Testament

Ellinor, a 35-year-old media consultant, has not been feeling herself; she's not been feeling much at all lately. Far beyond jaded, she picks through an old diary and fails to recognise the woman in its pages, seemingly as far away from the world around her as she's ever been. But when her coworker vanishes overnight, an unusual new task is dropped on her desk. Off she goes to meet the Norwegian Postal Workers Union, setting the ball rolling on a strange and transformative six months.

This is an existential scream of a novel about loneliness (and the postal service!), written in Vigdis Hjorth's trademark spare, rhythmic and cutting style.

Loser

Loser

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"The Loser" is a brilliant fictional account of an imaginary relationship among three men--the late piano virtuoso Glenn Gould, the unnamed narrator, and a fictional pianist, Wertheimer--who meet in 1953 to study with Vladimir Horowitz. In the face of Gould's incomparable genius, Wertheimer and the narrator renounce their musical ambition, but in very different ways. While the latter sets out to write a book about Gould, Wertheimer sinks deep into despair and self-destruction.

"Like Swift, Bernhard writes like a sacred monster. . . . A remarkable literary performer: [he] goes to extremes in ways that vivify our sense of human possibilities, however destructive".--Richard Locke, "Wall Street Journal"

"The excellence of Bernhard--and it is a kind virtuosity, ably maintained in this American translation--is to make his monotonous loathing not only sting but also, like Gould at the piano, sing".--Paul Griffiths, "Times Literary Supplement"

"[He is] one of the century's most gifted writers".--David Plott, "Philadelphia Inquirer"

"America has been sadly immune to the charm and challenge of Bernhard's work and the American public has deprived itself of the deep and serious pleasure of reading one of the great writers of this century. . . . One of the great works of world literature. Its arrival on these shores is a significant literary event".--Thomas McGonigle, "New York Newsday"

MATING

MATING

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Set in the African republic of Botswana--the locale of his acclaimed short story collection, "Whites" --Norman Rush's novel simultaneously explores the highest of intellectual high grounds and the most tortuous ravines of the erotic. tackles the geopolitics of poverty and the mystery of what men and women really want.
Millstone

Millstone

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Margaret Drabble's affecting novel, set in London during the 1960s, about a casual love affair, an unplanned pregnancy, and one young woman's decision to become a mother.
Strange Weather in Tokyo

Strange Weather in Tokyo

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Shortlisted for the 2013 Man Asian Literary Prize, Strange Weather in Tokyo is a story of loneliness and love that defies age.

Tsukiko, thirty-eight, works in an office and lives alone. One night, she happens to meet one of her former high school teachers, Sensei, in a local bar. Tsukiko had only ever called him Sensei (Teacher). He is thirty years her senior, retired, and presumably a widower. Their relationship develops from a perfunctory acknowledgment of each other as they eat and drink alone at the bar, to a hesitant intimacy which tilts awkwardly and poignantly into love.

As Tsukiko and Sensei grow to know and love one another, time's passing is marked by Kawakami's gentle hints at the changing seasons: from warm sake to chilled beer, from the buds on the trees to the blooming of the cherry blossoms. Strange Weather in Tokyo is a moving, funny, and immersive tale of modern Japan and old-fashioned romance.

Terrible Country

Terrible Country

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A New York Times Editors' Choice

Named a Best Book of 2018 by Bookforum, Nylon, Esquire, and Vulture

This artful and autumnal novel, published in high summer, is a gift to those who wish to receive it.
--Dwight Garner, The New York Times

Hilarious, heartbreaking . . . A Terrible Country may be one of the best books you'll read this year.
--Ann Levin,
Associated Press

The funniest work of fiction I've read this year.
--Christian Lorentzen, Vulture.com

A literary triumph about Russia, family, love, and loyalty--the first novel in ten years from a founding editor of n+1 and author of All the Sad Young Literary Men

When Andrei Kaplan's older brother Dima insists that Andrei return to Moscow to care for their ailing grandmother, Andrei must take stock of his life in New York. His girlfriend has stopped returning his text messages. His dissertation adviser is dubious about his job prospects. It's the summer of 2008, and his bank account is running dangerously low. Perhaps a few months in Moscow are just what he needs. So Andrei sublets his room in Brooklyn, packs up his hockey stuff, and moves into the apartment that Stalin himself had given his grandmother, a woman who has outlived her husband and most of her friends. She survived the dark days of communism and witnessed Russia's violent capitalist transformation, during which she lost her beloved dacha. She welcomes Andrei into her home, even if she can't always remember who he is.

Andrei learns to navigate Putin's Moscow, still the city of his birth, but with more expensive coffee. He looks after his elderly--but surprisingly sharp!--grandmother, finds a place to play hockey, a café to send emails, and eventually some friends, including a beautiful young activist named Yulia. Over the course of the year, his grandmother's health declines and his feelings of dislocation from both Russia and America deepen. Andrei knows he must reckon with his future and make choices that will determine his life and fate. When he becomes entangled with a group of leftists, Andrei's politics and his allegiances are tested, and he is forced to come to terms with the Russian society he was born into and the American one he has enjoyed since he was a kid.

A wise, sensitive novel about Russia, exile, family, love, history and fate, A Terrible County asks what you owe the place you were born, and what it owes you. Writing with grace and humor, Keith Gessen gives us a brilliant and mature novel that is sure to mark him as one of the most talented novelists of his generation.