Earlier this summer, in place of our usual staff picks, we asked five contributors from our Summer issue to write about what they’d been reading. This week, we’ve asked five more. You can read June’s writer picks here.
I just finished Mihail Sebastian’s 1934 novel/notebook For Two Thousand Years, which Other Press is about to publish for the first time in the U.S. It is—among many other things—an elegant and candid and horrifyingly understated account of watching violent unreason rise around you. He almost can’t believe what’s happening. Alli Warren’s “I Love It Though,” from the excellent Nightboat Books, is helping me to love it, the whole fucked up thing, despite the long daily litany of reasons to despair: “I wave a flag for brute feeling,” she writes, and I’m rallying to it. “Or the courage or not / of me and my friends / orbital in lilt, directive in drink / while container ships brim / and caps and bergs / slope across the slog / I want to be able to continue / to love to stay alive.” With my daughter’s I’m reading “¿Qué puedes hacer con una paleta?” by Carmen Tafolla, illustrated by Magaly Morales. I’m reading it some thirty times a night. —Ben Lerner (“The Camperdown Elm”)
I recently read two excellent, very different books about identity, home, and belonging (the theme of my recent Paris Review Daily piece). The first was Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, which uses personal interviews to analyze why people in the Southern U.S. are often hostile to government protections for their own threatened and beloved environment—and more broadly, why these people voted for Trump. The book helped me see how these choices might make at least an emotional kind of sense. The second is also set in the American South, and plays a terrifying thought experiment with Hochschild’s story of the deep antagonism and mutual misunderstanding between the North and the South of the United States. American War by Omar El Akkad evokes a dystopian future in which the disagreement about the proper use of fossil fuels leads to another American civil war, and we see how one individual—a girl from Louisiana who grows up in a refugee camp for displaced persons and is later subjected to years of torture—forms a desperate, enraged, dangerous sense of identity through her attachment to a home that has been utterly destroyed. —Emily Wilson (a translation of Homer’s Odyssey) Read More