What We’re Loving: Foam, Florida, Fiction Binges


This Week’s Reading

Mothers News2

I received my first issue of Mothers News this week—and now I wonder what I’ve been doing with my life. A free monthly broadside out of Providence, Mothers News is hyper, delirious, and weird. And, I now realize, essential reading. The eight-page rag is best known, and rightly so, for its comics—with regular strips by C. F., Michael Deforge, Mickey Z, Brian Chippendale, and others—but all the content is of a piece. This issue manages, for instance, a column devoted to foam (“What do we know about foam?”—quite a bit, it turns out); a top-ten list that includes a brief excursion into the etymology of “hoist by my own petard”; and an announcement that the UN has designated 2014 the International Year of Family Farming and Crystallography (IYFF 2014 and IYCr2014, respectively). There’s also, of course, the Ambrose Bierce Memorial Word Jumble and a coveted ad from the Lon Chaney Society of New England. —Nicole Rudick

I’ve been dipping into T. D. Allman’s Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State, whose bright jacket belies its sharp dressing-down of our twenty-seventh state. In Allman’s telling, Florida is, and always has been, an accursed microcosm of the American dream—from its geology to its politics to its economics, everything about the place invites delusion, violence, and disaster. Some critics found this too apocalyptic, but I think Allman’s gloom is a valuable corrective, and he’s far from humorless; even his bibliography has fizz. (“Where the Boys Are [1960]. Groovy LA starlets play beach blanket bingo in Fort Lauderdale.”) You can read Florida, longlisted for last year’s National Book Award, as an erudite complement to Florida Man, a Twitter feed that lists the frighteningly constant stream of follies coming from the Sunshine State. The latest: “Florida Man Arrested for Beating Uncle with Toilet Seat.” —Dan Piepenbring

Over the long weekend I went on a New Yorker fiction binge and read every short story I’d missed in 2013. Among the gems I’d somehow overlooked: Tessa Hadley’s impeccable “Bad Dreams,” Thomas McGuane’s “Weight Watchers,” and “The Christmas Miracle,” by Rebecca Curtis, which is simply the funniest short story I have read in a year. It’s easy to carp at The New Yorker, because it’s an institution, but forget that and read the stories first. From week to week, they are often as interesting, as much fun to read, as anything in the magazine. —Lorin Stein

How often do you stumble across great new science fiction? It’s a genre that never gets the attention it deserves. All the more reason to delight in Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation, the first volume in his Southern Reach trilogy, which will be released throughout this year. The plot moves quickly and has all the fantastic elements you’d ever want—biological contaminants, peculiar creatures, mysterious deaths—but it’s the novel’s unbearable dread that lingers with me days after I’ve finished it. —Justin Alvarez

In love as I am with Ann Patchett’s novels, I’m especially compelled by her new collection of essays, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. Patchett meditates on camping in a Winnebago, discovers her love of opera through her distaste for country music, and reconciles her Catholicism with her divorce. (As the title implies, her remarriage has been a happy one.) All this is suffused with the same quiet authority and lyricism that had me hooked at Bel Canto. —Rachel Abramowitz