Wes is one of Third Place’s used book buyers and takes care of the Sociology and True Crime sections. Rather unreliable where biographical details are concerned, we deferred to people who know Wes better than he knows himself:"Prudish in genre flexibility." Matthew Stearns, author of Sonic Youth's Daydream Nation (33 1/3)
"Could be the Don Rickles of [his] generation." Logan Fox, Shakespeare & Company
"I don't know what [he] is capable of." Christine Calvo, Digital Asset Management Associate, TIME Magazine
Greenwell's first novel is rhapsodic - a sophisticated tale that peers into the contiguous relationship between our desires and our loneliness. Like James Baldwin or Edmund White's best, the novel's tone is astoundingly elegant, its urbanity and quietude brought into sharp focus when considering how gratuitous the narrative could seem if written by a less refined writer.
For better or worse, I am a self-declared book snob and rarely dabble in contemporary genre fiction. Finishing a Tana French or Gillian French nove lhas inspired little more than a drowsy "egh," but Confessions might be a watershed read. Its delightfully macabre plot, contemptible characters and artfully placed twists had me practically ripping out each page to get to the next. -Wes
Absorbing, engrossingly pure storytelling. Deftly paced with handsomely drawn characters and moments of sharp humor, it is an elegant calling card for Williams with admirable narrative backbone and full of promise.
It is all too rare that a book lives up to the promise of its blurbs but Ostlund's novel is a welcome exception, far exceeding the cover's lavish praise. A bravura performance, it is a deeply moving novel full of rich emotion and humanity.
Suicide and depression, those oft-choked nuggets of contemporary literature, are a tricky terrain — but one Toews handles deftly. The ache and anger of the people left to witness and endure are not wrought darkly but with honesty and precision, tempered with the shocks of humor and relief we experience when confronted by life's inevitable finality, self-inflicted or not. -Wesley
In each of these wonderfully offbeat stories, a mundane life is turned on its ear by a jarring, left-field occurrence. A series of increasingly aggressive (and annoying) requests for the titular refund from a subletter, a marriage's flaws brought into focus after the family cat's vocal proclamation of love for only one of its owners, and a kitchen kept kosher by floor to ceiling aluminum foil are only a few of the imaginative spoils found in this collection.
A pretty wild departure from her debut (but equally excellent) novella McGlue, Eileen is a gut-wrenching journey with one of the most intriguing antiheroes I've ever encountered. Darker, complex interior lives of seedy characters are Moshfegh's stock-in-trade but that murkiness shouldn't dissuade potential readers. It is a fearless, compulsively readable novel that reads as if it's on fire.
His performances are the stuff of legend, his tireless effort to get to the root of the self a thing of unparalleled beauty. Here, a late-onset, inexplicable obsession with skiing is used as a jumping-off point to shake out the pockets of a mid-life crisis. Gray was genuinely a national treasure and his trademark precision and sophistication are sublimely realized here.
Eve's Hollywood, cruelly out of print for four decades or some equally ridiculous length of time, is categorized as fiction but could just as easily be used as a travel guide to a bygone L.A. or possibly a user's guide to life. Effortlessly witty and armed to the teeth with an inimitable style, Babitz is in a class by herself.
Exploring prejudice and its impact on identity, both personally and on a larger anthropological scale, Biss's essay collection towers over its contemporaries. Her focus seamlessly shifts between the subjective experience and historical actuality with powerful insights that cut to the quick with jaw-dropping grace. Such command and lyrical force are an undulterated pleasure - a pleasure to be read slowly, then passed on to every reader you know. -Wes
Finding myself inexplicably drawn to an old hardcover edition of this when it crossed the used counter, I have been in its thrall completely, reading as slowly and carefully as possible. Maybe it's nostalgia for my father's 1971 Chevy (which still runs beautifully), maybe it's Jerome's plaintive simplicity. At the end of the day, though, whatever it is I found so beguiling from the outset has paid off richly. An unfussy but ambiguously complex meditation. -Wes
A remarkable work of fiction, Yanagihara's novel demands full attention--not an easy undertaking with such brutal, emotionally abrasive subject matter. The characters are so human, so fully realized, that I wept openly in parts. It may not be what everyone would consider praise but to employ mind and body, to react viscerally, is not something I experience often. And it is the only book I've read that left me feeling I am a better person having done so. -Wesley
Long before George Saunders and Karen Russell introduced literary weirdness to the reading public at large, Williams was writing satisfyingly elliptical and witchy stories and novels. -Wesley
Auster's second novel is the most ill-fitting in his body of work but also one of his more enjoyable. In an unnamed city, Auster's protagonist struggles to overcome increasinlgy difficult (possibly dystopian?) hurdles. It is a fully realized feat of imagination that takes hold of the reader from page one and absolutely refuses to let go. -Wes
The first book-length work of nonfiction by Julavits, an accomplished novelist and editor, is an absolute triumph. A two year diary, pieced together here out of chronological order, The Folded Clock is an elegant and wry exercise is self-reflection, occasional accusation, and compassion. Julavits perfectly captures the ongoing process of becoming one's self, the impossibility of fully doing so, and the nascent pleasures of the undertaking. -Wesley
Safekeeping, Abigail Thomas's first memoir, has been my foolproof back pocket recommendation for the fussiest of readers for over a decade, and a follow-up that is as deeply felt and elegant is very much a publication to celebrate.
Her work's subtlety is arresting; her wisdom truly astonishing. -Wesley
Situationally fantastic but emotionally familiar, every story in Man v. Nature is top-drawer. Dystopian landscapes, sexual anarchy, and vividly real antagonists (especially in "It's Coming" and the title story) all create a rambunctious energy, making the collection utterly unique and an inimitable joy to read. -Wesley
It's been well over ten years since Daum's last collection of essays, and while the long wait was painful at times, all is forgiven now that she's back. A little Fran Lebowitz, a little Nora Ephron, she is a writer of great warmth with a caustic optimism I deeply admire. -Wesley
"I find I can't keep myself from playing roles. The emotionless decadent, looking for diversion from boredom, is a favorite. Corny, but it works by my criteria: maximum pleasure, minimum anxiety." An overwhelming, ebullient genius. -Wesley
The thin line between fact and fabrication in an individual's memory is a rich territory to mine and one custom-made for Cusk's adroit prose.
January is probably too early to call it one of the year's best novels, but it's just that good. -Wesley
Gilbert draws upon the biographical mythologies of Vonnegut, Pynchon, and Salinger to create an intricate and moving tale about the familial bonds between. Atmospheric and engrossing, it is not to be missed. -Wesley
Scheeres's account of the Jonestown Massacre breathes humanity into a ghastly piece of American history that, sadly, is little more than a punchline today. Meticulously researched and written with a sympathy that doesn't betray its journalistic intentions. -Wesley
For years, Joan Silber has been quietly building a body of work far warmer and more generous than her contemporaries. Criminally overlooked, she deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Ann Patchett or Colum McCann. -Wesley
The stunning lyrical precision of these four short novels is what garnered enormous critical praise upon publication but it is the emotional profundity that has stayed with me over the years. Examining the darkest corners of family and interior life with humor and grace, St. Aubyn is a modern master. -Wesley
The first few stories made such a strong impression that I could not shut up about them, really bugling the hell out of one in particular. Geni's correlative thread is fascinating and subtle--a truly unique debut. -Wesley
Solid, assured prose elevates this novel to a level you don't expect. Quite dark at times, it is not for the faint of heart but the author deftly reveals the interior life of a woman adrift that is surprisingly rewarding. -Wesley
With Dorothea Lange's "Migrant Mother" as inspiration, Silver has created an affecting novel that examines the lasting impressions a work of art can have on all involved: artist, subject, and observer. -Wesley
Barthelme's unique blend of unassuming prose and flip, wise-cracking dialogue never gets old for me. His work fits seamlessly alongside Carver, Beattie, and the other usual suspects who are (reluctantly) described as minimalists. -Wesley
A former editor for Wired, culture and media critic Mark Dery is a fitting successor to Mailer's throne and worthy of any Didion devotee. It's hard to say if it is his rapid-fire humor or often mind-blowing lyricism and insight that makes this collection so enjoyable. -Wesley
The realization that we have already become the person we are going to be is a difficult one and a personal reckoning Messud captures with admirable restraint and elegance. -Wesley
Impossible to pigeonhole, Millet has been amassing an impressive body of work that employs satire and heartbreak in equal measure. While always sharp and inventive, she really goes for broke here. A fantastic blend of modern snark and old-fashioned broad comedy. -Wesley
Admirable in its ease and subtlety, I'm hard-pressed to name another debut in recent memory as poignant as this. The charm is evident from page one and only gathers strength throughout. -Wesley
Ausubel's stories are the drunk uncle at Thanksgiving: attention-grabbing, amusing, casually insightful. The suspension of disbelief is a tough undertaking for me but plausibility never even factored in given the author's storytelling sophistication. No matter how fantastic the conceit, the stories are full of such emotional authenticity and their underlying points dressed so beautifully, the collection is an undeniable pleasure.