The son of a librarian and a teacher, Brendan's passion for reading caught fire faster than you can say, "Pat sat on a mat." Born in Chicago and raised just east of the Mississippi—behind the sun—his life's been one long corn maze of urban scenes and buffalo dreams.
Reviews & Recommendations
A collection of some of the best profiles written by the all-time great New Yorker journalist, Joseph Mitchell. With profound empathy and his trademark "old testament humor," Mitchell traces the topography of a vanished New York, a subterranean stage inhabited by bearded women and street preachers and roaming gypsy caravans. Much like James Joyce's contributions to the novel and Bob Dylan's approach to songwriting, Joseph Mitchell elevated journalism by mining profundity from the seemingly mundane and overlooked aspects of daily life.
Babitz's brief reflections on her freewheelin' youth in L.A. read like a summer breeze through an open car window. Whether laconically recounting childhood memories under composer Igor Stravinsky's tutelage or revealing where and how exactly to find the best taquitos in the city, Babitz transports the reader into what feels like a prehistoric southern California, existing somewhere between Babylon and Manson.
(This book cannot be returned.)
A single day in the life of both 38-year-old Leopold Bloom and 22-year-old Stephen Dedalus transforms the city of Dublin into a modern-day labyrinth populated by everyday figures whose actions and words have implications just as great as those in any biblical, Shakespearean, or mythical story. In the literary world, Ulysses's fraught publication was akin to the arrival of the glaring monolith in Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Nothing would ever be the same.
(This book cannot be returned.)
A group of bored travelers in fin-de-siècle Amsterdam encounter an aging French dandy in a dank and dimly-lit bar. Having long ago imposed exile upon himself, M. de Bougrelon feverishly guides his compatriots on a tour of Holland's forgotten splendor. Between hasty reapplications of his makeup, which drips freely from his jowls, M. de Bougrelon reminisces on his debauched youth spent in the "heroic" company of his friend, Monsieur de Mortimer. Lorrain so coyly plumbs the depths of urban ennui and the limits of male companionship that it's hard to believe this slim novel came out in 1897.
Last Words from Montmarte is a slow burn, unfolding over a series of letters through which the narrator processes her grief after a traumatic breakup. The fragments of her memory function both as a weapon and a prism of clarity, ultimately allowing her to transcend her suffering. The result is a shockingly cathartic depiction of depression and a timeless portrait of the artist.
Qiu Miaojin's debut novel crashes conventions like a fist through a locked window. Written shortly after martial law was lifted in Taiwan in 1987, Qiu's depiction of a lesbian college student and her ring of damaged friends offers a glimpse of Taipei's queer community as it emerged from the underground. The fractured narrative, powered by late-night conversations and dream-like vignettes, resembles that of a punky debut art film; think Wong Kar-wai with a campus meal card.
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It's easy to compare Pavane to Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood, due to the narrator's sentimental reflections on youth and lost love (peppered poignantly by pop cultural references). But Park's coming-of-age novel, set against an image-obsessed South Korea in the mid-80s, passes more like a series of Polaroid photographs to Murakami's manga, if you catch my drift. The characters speak like real people; a conversation over beers can start with a belly laugh and end with one's blood running cold. Today, as the so-called "Korean wave" reaches high tide—and society grows ever more obsessed with the illusion of beauty—Pavane offers a much-needed vanity check.
Frank Stanford never looked at the moon the same way twice. His poetry sneaks up on you like a cottonmouth in a muddy river—on each page of this double-barrelled anthology, you can almost hear the locusts humming and feel the moon's furtive glow. Imbuing local color with a sort of Old Testament spirituality, Stanford was immensely gifted at interpreting the language of the bayou and evoking all the love, lust, music, and murder therein.
This book feels like it was beamed in from another planet, or unearthed in some ruined abbey like an ancient holy relic. Musing on the interconnected mysteries of faith, love, and memory, Cha uses both words and images to obliterate the oppressive limitations of time and language in order to reach her mother—suggesting that motherhood, rooted inexorably in paternal submission and self-sacrifice, is the ultimate form of martyrdom, worthy of saintly veneration. Full of grace, immaculately constructed—this is writing at its most sublime.
ln a depleted Stockton, California, people fight, both in and out of the ring. Sometimes they tussle with each other, sometimes with a bottle, and sometimes with their own frustrated expectations. But they're never totally down for the count—they always get back up and try again. Gardner's prose is as taut and lean as a featherweight boxer—and Denis Johnson's benedictory introduction to this NYRB edition indicates the extent of Fat City's impact (Johnson's slim novella, Train Dreams, is an even more succinct slice of life in a bygone America). The 1972 film adaptation, directed by John Huston and starring Stacy Keach and a young Jeff Bridges, is an undersung knockout as well.
A compelling meditation on fractured identity—across nations, time, and stages of life. Through a hyper-specific dissection of her own experiences, Low achieves a sort of spiritual emancipation from societal and intergenerational bondage—a road trip toward salvation that can be universally appreciated.
Murakami's best novel employs just about every quirk in his very idiosyncratic arsenal. Though the surface of his novels often give way to subterranean layers—both real and imagined— The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle most effectively thrusts the reader into a dreamlike labyrinth of Japanese history, the banality of waking life, and the redemptive nature of engaging with one's subconscious. Years later, I'm still chasing the thrill of reading Wind-Up Bird for the first time.