Recommended Reading

Hello again! I’ve been hard at work on my novel but thought I would drop by to tell you about what I’ve been reading lately.

First, I’m very excited to tell you that I am the new prose editor of one of my favorite journals, At Length, and I have just published new work by Kaitlyn Greenidge, a young writer I admire very much.

I first heard Kaitlyn’s work at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in 2010. She was a waiter at the conference (a coveted role) and read from her novel-in-progress, which I could not stop thinking about. I think the excerpted short story she shared with us delivers the same “where can I read more of this?” feeling. Here is Kaitlyn’s brief summary of the book:

The novel is about a black family that moves to a nearly all white town in Western Massachusetts in the early 1990s to take part in an experiment, where they move to a scientific institution and raise their two daughters with a chimpanzee. They are supposed to be teaching the chimp sign language and how to communicate with humans. The narrator is the family’s oldest daughter, Charlotte, who is fourteen when the experiment begins. She has a younger sister, Callie. Charlie is the chimp.

Click here to read “Red Clay.” It is surprising, funny, a little heartbreaking, and very sharp. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. (Above is a still from one of Charlie’s favorite movies, Johnny Guitar.)

Otherwise, I’ve been reading a lot of ebooks in the past few weeks (I have a Nook). It’s convenient and space-saving–our bookshelves are completely full–but I still prefer printed books. Recently I’ve enjoyed Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (literary Dateline!), The Fish Can Sing by Halldor Laxness (the best!), Leaving the Atocha Station by Ben Lerner, and Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be?, which I downloaded after reading this review in Slate. Both Lerner’s and Heti’s novels have appealing first-person narrators and are largely about the anxiety of creating art in the twenty-first century (Lerner’s narrator is a poet, and Heti’s is a playwright, occupations the narrators have in common with the authors).

I read Leaving the Atocha station twice, I liked it so much. It’s very short–in case you’re looking for something short enough to read twice–and very funny. But when it’s very hot out and you want to read something classic and a little crazy and set in Iceland, you can’t miss with The Fish Can Sing or Independent People. My mother and I read The Fish Can Sing at the same time–we want to go to Iceland to visit Laxness’s family home (now a museum), see the Northern Lights, and probably drink a lot of coffee.


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