January 2021 Reading Recommendations

Best of what I’ve been reading, from essays to short stories to interviews.

WEEK 3 | 2021

Still digging my way through pile of magazines that arrived during holidays. Also, started reading On Immunity by Eula Biss + l’Anomalie by Hervé Le Tellier + (rereading) The White Album by Joan Didion.

#literature #poetry
Louise Glück, the winner of 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature, couldn’t deliver her acceptance speech due to Covid-19. It was published in several outlets, including The New York Review of Books. Her quotations and commentary on how Emily Dickinson’s poetry made her teenage self feel – picked out of the crowd, the chosen one while everyone else is banished yet in danger of being banished too when found out – feel relevant in our age of heightened individualism.

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?

– Emily Dickinson

#bookreview #literarycriticism
The book review in the Times Literary Supplement, Novel cures –
How reading about self-help can change your life
, explores the history of self-help literature asking how to categorize this literary (if one is allowed to use such a sacred word) genre. “Modernists have become implicated in the self-help genre. Beckett’s “fail better” motto is a favourite Silicon Valley mantra, while Alain de Botton’s How Proust Can Change Your Life has become a blueprint for a surprising boomlet in books that read difficult Modernist works through a self-help-tinted lens. It’s the difficulty itself, and the absence of didacticism, that paradoxically draws these readers and writers to pursue the moral core of Woolf and Joyce.”

The haunting ending of Mariana Enriquez’s short story Our Lady in the Quarry, published in The New Yorker, should not come as a total surprise. Soon into the story, its narrator reveals blatantly: “we wanted her ruined, helpless, destroyed.” Not to give away too much, I’ll stop. Read it.

WEEK 2 | 2021

The most fun essay I read this week came from the Times Literary Supplement, was written by Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft, and explored the social intricacies of the pun. Read The punning of reason via Times Literary Supplement or via this non-restricted link.

A (literally) short story by Hungarian writer György Dragomán that’s especially enjoyable for anyone with a drop of soviet history in their blood system. Read The Puppet Theatre via The Paris Review or use this non-restricted link.

#shortstory + #literarycriticism
Sally Rooney, hailing from Ireland, is one of the most en vogue contemporary writers – her novel Normal People is a popular Netflix series + her other novel is already waiting its turn to be chronicled on our screens. And reading her is a young-adultish guilty pleasure indeed. Read her short story Mr Salary via Granta.

And if you feel like getting an overly sweet tooth for her writing, cool your affection by reading Katy Waldman’s contemplation on Rooneyesque protagonists’ self-protective irony & reflexivity trap, published in The New Yorker: Has Self-Awareness Gone Too Far in Fiction?

The latest issue of The Paris Review is dedicated to theatre. And it features a bittersweet excerpt of Claudia Rankine’s play Help that examines the nature of white male privilege – as the NYT put it – from 35,000 feet. Read it via The Paris Review or via this non-restricted link.