June 25, 2024

three book recommendations

It’s officially hot book summer; here are three things I’ve read recently and absolutely loved, because it turns out that every book is a beach book.

Moonbound, by Robin Sloan. Robin was kind enough to gift me an advance reader copy of his new novel, so I finished it a bit ahead of some friends of mine (#humblebrag). Set 10,000 years in the future, after the decline of human civilization (“the Anth”), it’s a delightfully weird take on the Arthurian legend, a hero’s journey through a strangely evolved planet that features talking beavers, multi-dimensional math, and a battle with AI “dragons” with a very unlikely narrator.

X and Y and Z, along with time, are sufficient for billiard balls and booster rockets-simple things. But real life, the complexity of it, demands more. This was our discovery: the world, like a sponge, will soak up as many dimensions as you provide.

Eastbound, by Maylis de Kerangal, translated by Jessica Moore. This brief novel (137 small pages – you might miss it on the bookshelf, or lose it in your beach bag!) follows two AWOL travelers on the Trans-Siberian Express: Aliocha, a deserting Russian soldier, and Hélène, a Frenchwoman who has left her Russian lover. They can’t speak, and yet there are sentences like this one…

In the end, whether it was this young man or a bear stretched out there, it would amount to the same thing, the same enormity, as though the real was suddenly crumbling, subverted by powerful dreams or completely other substances capable of catalyzing metamorphoses, as though the real was tearing apart under the pressure of faint but immutalbe deviations, something far bigger, far stronger than it – but no, there are no dreams in Hélène’s head, no drugs in her blood, the young man is well and truly there – indeed, he is the real, the tangible present moment of life, here, breathing with his mouth open a little, body rising and falling imperceptibly with each breath, and if she were to place a hand on him, on his pale and downy cheek, on his shoulder, she knows she would feel him alive, he would stir, open and eye and wake up.

The Best Minds, by Jonathan Rosen. What does it mean to be a friend? And what does it mean to be a friend with someone suffering from schizophrenia? And what happens when that friend stabs his girlfriend to death with a kitchen knife?

You would have to be very ignorant about schizophrenia, as I certainly was, and deluded about writing, as I continued to be, to think that telling the story of your struggle with psychosis could turn it into a past-tense affliction, like sorrow transmuted into words.