Annotations: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous

Thoughts. I’ve had few reading experiences as varied as my experience with Ocean Vuong’s debut novel. It is apparent, immediately, from the first page, that the novelist is a poet. I am writing because they told me never to start a sentence with because. But I wasn’t trying to make a sentence—I was trying toContinue reading “Annotations: On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous”

Annotations: Bad Dreams and Other Stories

Thoughts. Tessa Hadley is, apparently, a New Yorker staple—six of ten of the stories in Bad Dreams were published first in the magazine (and Deborah Treisman is the first person Hadley thanks in her acknowledgements). If you like the New Yorker‘s aesthetic, I imagine you’ll like Bad Dreams. Enough said. 1. “An Abduction”: At times,Continue reading “Annotations: Bad Dreams and Other Stories”

Annotations: So Many Olympic Exertions

Thoughts. I do not generally love novels described as “genre-blending”/”genre-bending” or “experimental.” I am not interested in sports (I bring novels to sporting events). I do not read self-help. And yet, Anelise Chen’s experimental novel blending elements of memoir, sports writing, and self-help dazzled me. The prose is accessible but gorgeous; the “reporting” on athletesContinue reading “Annotations: So Many Olympic Exertions”

Annotations: The Fountainhead

Thoughts. All of my favorite novels are beautiful works of art. Their impact, for me, is on an emotional register produced by intimacy with characters, appreciation of language, persistent imagery, inescapable atmosphere. With The Fountainhead, it isn’t like that. The characters are well built (Howard Roark and Ellsworth Toohey, in particular, are singular creations), theContinue reading “Annotations: The Fountainhead”

Annotations: Chilean Poet

Thoughts. There is something incredibly refreshing about a novel that does not concern itself with beginnings and endings, a novel that so resoundingly eschews “plot.” And, of course, I imagine Zambra’s response to this observation would be something like: poetry is plotless, as is life; plot is the fictitious construction of the novelist (which, curiously,Continue reading “Annotations: Chilean Poet”

Annotations: The Appointment

Favorite words. But we never mourned. If anything we performed a new version of ourselves, hysterically non-racist in any direction and negating difference wherever possible. Suddenly there were just Germans, no Jews, no guest workers, no others. And yet we never granted them the status of human beings again, or let them interfere with ourContinue reading “Annotations: The Appointment”

Annotations: Drowning Practice

Thoughts. I am not an “event” person. Birthdays, weddings, holidays—even weekends: I’m not up for whatever it is you’re planning. There’s too much anticipation. The delivery on return is always subpar, and the experience of the actual day is never as good as you’d hoped. I’m of the opinion that the best days are alwaysContinue reading “Annotations: Drowning Practice”

Annotations: The Story of the Lost Child (The Neapolitan Novels #4)

Thoughts. I’m still putting together my thoughts about the final installment in Ferrante’s tetralogy. I loved it. Not as much as the second and third installments. More than I love most books I read. Ferrante’s genius is in her ability to capture the minute in a landscape of expansive scope. In her ability to paintContinue reading “Annotations: The Story of the Lost Child (The Neapolitan Novels #4)”

Annotations: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (The Neapolitan Novels #3)

Thoughts. Each Neapolitan Novel is better than the last. In the third installment, I was particularly struck by Ferrante’s ability to capture dissatisfaction. The lived experience of it, off the page, is obviously disagreeable—and yet Ferrante’s communication of it is the opposite: thrilling and dynamic and wholly absorbing. Similarly, the complexity of Elena’s and Lila’sContinue reading “Annotations: Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (The Neapolitan Novels #3)”

Annotations: The Story of a New Name (The Neapolitan Novels #2)

Thoughts. Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels are literary quicksand. I am convinced there is no way to dip in and dip out. These novels are lengthy—My Brilliant Friend is over 300 pages, The Story of a New Name is nearly 500—and yet, I’m not even considering reading something else. (And it’s worth noting that I have, I am notContinue reading “Annotations: The Story of a New Name (The Neapolitan Novels #2)”