"That is our 'pointed task. Love & die." So says John Berryman, the pre-eminent lovedrunk poet and the central obsession of Andrew Palmer's debut novel, The Bachelor, a book that is, yes, partially about romantic love in the age of reality television. But what if you're not a fame-starved Instagram model, and instead a brooding but friendly millennial type, recently void of artistic ambition? Palmer's brilliant work is full of insight and romantic mistakes, like reading the best of Andrew Martin, Ben Lerner, or Elif Batuman. Palmer extracts the language of love for what it is—its hollowness! its empty repetition! ("I've never felt this way before." "I think I'm falling for you.") It's a difficult thing to watch, as it starts to indict us all.
Brian Doyle spoke more or less exactly the way he wrote, a fact that I always found kind of remarkable. It's easy to imagine him reading - performing, really - any of the short, poignant essays collected here. Doyle died way too soon, in 2017, but he left us with an incredible body of work - sublime, hilarious, tragic, beatific - the very best (non-fiction) examples of which are collected in this volume, with help from David James Duncan. Keep these close and read (and re-read) them frequently - as meditation, as comedy, as guiding beacons in dark times. Thanks, Brian, for everything.
I love this fascinating, totally mind-blowing book on the science and culture of pregnancy. Like A Mother's blend of essay, memoir, and reportage shows Seattle writer Angela Garbes' chops as a journalist as she interrogates cultural myths and picks apart the massive systemic issues that arise from treating pregnancy like an illness instead of "a superhuman power." Chapters range from placentas (my pick for #1 most underrated organ), breastmilk, miscarriages, and how to best care for pregnant addicts, to the violent, racist history of gynecology. Garbes' tone of curious wonder and emotional connection to her material will resonate with any reader - you don't need to have a uterus to get swept up in her enthusiasm.
WHY DID I WAIT SO LONG TO READ THIS OH MY GOD IT'S SO GOOD.
So as I was reading Firebug, I found myself snapping pictures of parts of it to send to my girlfriend, the writing was so good. Before I was even halfway through it (about 15 pics later), she had insisted that I get her her own copy, which she proceeded to devour and demand that I get her the sequel (Pyromantic). 24 hours later, I get a text:
"Is there going to be another sequel?"