Author Umberto Eco Plots What, Exactly?

CML · 11/11/15 10:15AM

Umberto Eco’s first new novel in five years, Numero Zero, weighs in at 192 pages, versus 400+ for his previous efforts. I’m pretty Eco-friendly—The Name of the Rose was a lot of fun, if a bit overlong—so I was looking forward to something like Rose or Foucault’s Pendulum, except shorter, tighter, and brighter. Instead, readers of Numero Zero will find a little mystery, a bit of fantasy, some humor, and a lot of explanation: for better or for worse, this is a change of pace for Eco.

8 Terrifying Books That Ruined Your Childhood

Gawker Review of Books · 10/30/15 11:45AM

So often, when we look back on our formative years, the memories which scream loudest are the ones marked by fear, death, and adolescent angst. Some of these memories are grounded in reality while others, we’re told to believe, are pure fiction. Yet for many of us, the scary stories we encountered in the books of R.L. Stine, Stephen King, Alvin Schwartz, Anne Rice, and H.P. Lovecraft, among other authors, haunt us still.

"Say What You Will About Apocalypse, You Can Do Your Own Thing": A Conversation With Claire Vaye Watkins

Jia Tolentino · 10/09/15 08:00AM

Like real women, fictional women are often seen as wish-fulfillment. The “strength” that we look for in a female protagonist is often there for sentimental purposes, and rarely resembles the iron, irradiated accountability that matters in real life, a type of strength that’s like the desert—unsparing and mercurial. Blessedly, this is the milieu of Claire Vaye Watkins, born in Death Valley, daughter of Charles Manson’s chief lieutenant. Her heart-stopping 2012 collection Battleborn opens with a character named Razor Blade Baby, the product of a Family orgy, born when Manson sliced her out. Another story, “Man-O-War,” features a hermit scavenger picking up unused fireworks on the 5th of July and finding, instead, a pregnant teenager, bruised and half dead of heatstroke; what pair could possibly be more feeble, you think at the beginning, and then by the end, you wonder who could ever be so strong.

Inside the World of the Black Elite: An Interview With Margo Jefferson

Jason Parham · 09/29/15 03:10PM

Upon the publication of Lawrence Otis Graham’s Our Kind of People in 1999, the New York Times asked, “Is There a Black Upper Class?” On the surface, it was a foolhardy question—of course there was, and is, a black upper class—but if you were to peel back its exterior, as Graham did in his book, underneath revealed a world of race leaders: men and women and children who were in a constant “state of self-enhancement.” Here was a place, a land, very few Americans knew about.

A Safe Place and a Straitjacket: An Interview With Lauren Groff

Jia Tolentino · 09/23/15 12:00PM

I blew through the last quarter of Lauren Groff’s Fates and Furies in the wee hours, gasping. Surprise is rare in literary fiction, which is snobbish with its pleasures, generally picking meditation over movement; surprise is even rarer in novels that run on language as flush, wild and glinting as Groff’s. “Goodness, he would lick her crown to hallux,” thinks teenage Lotto, just before fucking his teenage crush (“hands blistered to blood,” Groff writes; “her eyes overflowed the liner”) in the actual middle of a house fire. Romance, to Lotto’s wife, is like “corn rammed down goose necks, this shit they’d swallowed since they were barely old enough to dress themselves in tulle.” The style is wrought heavily but carefully, and its force is like water—pulling you under, letting you float.

The Summer of Simulacra: On Grey and Go Set a Watchman

Andrew Hart · 09/22/15 12:00PM

On the day the calendar officially turns to fall, the only thing that needs to be said about the state of the novel is this: E.L. James’s Grey—from that time-honored genre of English letters, the shot-for-shot rewrite of an erotic fanfic of a series of young adult vampire novels—was the book of the summer. Which isn’t to say it’s good.

Fall Is Here and So Are Books, Here Are 9 Must-Reads

Megan Reynolds · 09/11/15 11:15AM

“FALL BOOKS ARE HERE” screams a banner hanging from your local bookstore. “READ THESE HUGE 700 PAGE NOVELS” implores a website. The fun thing about reading is that you can do it at any time of the year; fall is just the time when big authors with big names release their Great Works for everyone’s consideration. This fall, you could read Purity (don’t) or you could read any of these fine offerings instead.

Jonathan Franzen's Purity Is an Irrelevant Piece of Shit 

CML · 09/08/15 01:30PM

It is obvious from its first page that Purity is a worthless novel and its author, Jonathan Franzen, a worthless writer. Even the very first line, spoken by one of Franzen’s “characters,” is unbelievable: “Oh pussycat, I’m so glad to hear your voice”—the voice that of no human who has ever walked this earth, except an inept and pretentious novelist.

The Long Con of Joan Didion

Megan Reynolds · 08/26/15 12:10PM

I first read Joan Didion as a senior in high school. When you’re a teen with literary ambitions, Didion is who you turn to for inspiration. My copy of Play It As It Lays is well thumbed and dog-eared. On the inside of the front cover, I wrote my name along with the date I purchased it—an affectation left over from when I thought I’d turn into the kind of woman surrounded by books and great swaths of fabric covering slightly dirty windows, a tumbler of bourbon in one hand and a cigarette slowly going to ash in the other, gazing at city lights through the window.

I'm Furious About Tim & Eric's Zone Theory, and You Should Be Too

Rich Juzwiak · 07/09/15 09:40AM

“Tim” (Eric Wareheim) and “Eric” (Tim Heidecker) are two big-shot Hollywood bozos. They have penetrated the worlds of television, movies, and jazz singing (just to name just a few) with their perverted brand of humor that involves spoon-feeding the masses heaping servings of razzle dazzle, monkeyshines, monkeydazzle, razzle shines, as well as commentary about consumerist culture and its many absurd permutations.

Will Our Mothers Be Poptimists?: A Talk About Taste With Leon Neyfakh

Carl Sekaras · 07/08/15 10:50AM

Leon Neyfakh is perhaps more like his mom than he’d care to admit. The Slate staff writer and sometimes music critic’s first book, The Next Next Level (released July 7) is a kind of conjoined twin profile-memoir, with the subject—a white rap-rocker from Milwaukee, renowned for his intense live shows, named Juiceboxxx—sharing as much of the word count as the author. The connection is natural. Neyfakh’s known Juice since they were teens, when he was booking the energetic, single-minded MC for a show in a church basement, and, later, sneaking Juice into his house, fearing that his parents wouldn’t approve of his friend.

The Best New Books Released This Summer: A Guide

Gawker Review of Books · 06/24/15 02:00PM

What makes a good summer read? Should it be light, briskly-paced, suitable for digestion in one hot afternoon on the nearest available beach or patio? Sure, that’s one way of looking at it, but it also feels like a waste to shield your summer self (one of the best and strongest selves) from the books you’ll carry with you long after the warm weather has worn off. So, por que no los dos?

The Best Novels to Read During Summer, Ranked

Jason Parham · 06/09/15 11:00AM

Do you love to read? Is summer your favorite time of year? Does reading a good book on the beach or in the park under a bright blue sky bring you limitless joy? Here, the 25 best novels to read during summer.

On Roadwork: The Postmodern Stephen King Masterpiece You've Never Read

David Obuchowski · 06/02/15 01:30PM

Today, Stephen King’s 55th novel, Finders Keepers, will be published by Scribner. I expect the book will be a bestseller, and King’s name will be in the press even more than usual between its publication and the June 25 premiere of the third season of Under The Dome, a television series based on his novel, and for which he’s an executive producer.

Tao Lin Returns

Jason Parham · 05/18/15 01:25PM

Like the hipster phoenix rising from the polychromatic dumpsters overflowing with moldy kale on Williamsburg’s North Side, alt-lit icon (and alleged statutory rapist) Tao Lin has returned with new work. On Monday, the noted author published a short story on Terraform, Vice’s online hub for “future fiction.”

Nothing Is Concise or Clear: An Interview With Sean H. Doyle

David Obuchowski · 05/06/15 01:05PM

This Must Be The Place, the new memoir by Sean H. Doyle—published May 1—features the most gratuitous drug use of any book I’ve ever read, and it’s packed with violence, grief, and generally horrible things. In fact, if you were to take out the drugs and the violence and the sadness, you’d really have nothing. But none of it reads in a way that’s designed to offend the reader. Instead, Doyle seems intent on making himself face his ugliest moments, his lowest points. A dog rubbing his own nose in the many messes he’s made on so many carpets.

Movie Night After the Loss of a Sibling

Lucas Mann · 04/28/15 12:15PM

My father keeps beer in the fridge for me. He doesn’t drink, really, and I don’t live with him anymore, but I think he likes that I come over and, when I do, he can say, “There’s beer.”