Bookstore / Roundup

Read This Next: Hans Recommends (May)

Read This Next: Hans Recommends (May) — 05/11/2017

My reading of novels is often framed by a theme, be it an idea or location or era. Lately, that theme is novels that contain both sadness and humor. I had been on a run of several dark books and decided I needed to change it up a bit, and here are three that have stuck with me. The style of humor is quite different in Rudolph Wurlitzer’s The Drop Edge of Yonder and Patty Yumi Cottrell’s debut Sorry to Disrupt the Peace, but is steady in both. As for the Borges, I have a stack of books at home that belong to a category I call “not now but probably later”: books I get and have neither the time nor inclination to read at the moment. Professor Borges sat in that pile until I recently spotted it and decided my life needed some real high-level talk about fiction from a true master. He did not disappoint.

The Drop Edge of Yonder
Rudolph Wurlizter

Two Dollar Radio, 2017

I picked this book for my upcoming book club because it is a Western. It’s epigraph reads: “Things are not as they appear. Nor are they otherwise” (Lankavatara Sutra). That confused and intrigued me. The author had not written a novel in twenty-five years. Also intriguing. Intrigue alone, however, is not enough—but this novel delivered. The Drop Edge of Yonder is filled with memorable characters and a tale of morality that is neither simple or oblique. Two Dollar Radio has long been a small press worth paying attention to—and this novel proves the point. Buy now»

Sorry To Disrupt The Peace
Patty Yumi Cottrell

McSweeney’s, 2017

This is a debut novel that avoids the traps most debuts cannot avoid. It doesn’t try to be all things to all people and it doesn’t have an ending that is totally unbelievable. What it does do is captivate the reader from the beginning and never let go. Helen Moran, our sometimes reliable narrator, has lost her only brother to suicide and decided it is her duty to investigate this “crime.” There are two interludes in the novel that both, in their own ways, enhance the story. I was sad to finish this book because it so kept me in its world. Buy now»

Professor Borges: A Course on English Literature
Jorge Luis Borges

ed. Martín Arias and Martín Hadis and translated by Katherine Silver
New Directions, 2013

Borges is a writer like no other and any comparison will fall flat on its face. His fiction, essays and poems all encompass their own territory. This is a compilation of lectures that he gave in 1966 and they are mind-bending. His interests and knowledge have no end—he covers early Anglo-Saxon writings, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and so much else. He is the oddest and smartest and most well-read professor any of us could ever possibly have. Buy now»