French has said that she would shamelessly hang around bus stops and shopping centers to listen to teenagers talk to each other, and my strongest impression of the book is how she used realistic teenage vernacular to convey enormous complexity. I’m a fan of YA books, but the characters in them are frequently aspirational (unless all the super hot, sensitive, artistically-inclined boys in my high school were hiding somewhere). The girls in The Secret Place are very recognizably obnoxious teenagers, and yet their lives and relationships are intricate and compelling — to the extent that I thought they were all idiots, and at one point or another I thought all of them capable of murder.
In my favorite passage from The Handmaid’s Tale, figurative language reminds us that Offred’s flesh is and isn’t flesh, and that although her body is controlled by the state, it’s far from a defined, closed system. This brief unhinging of meaning is an act of defiance. And in a world where all you’re allowed is your female body, it also may be a relief.
One striking feature of the digital-self-help literature is that it treats distraction, overload, and frazzlement almost entirely as personal challenges. If you’re stressed out and unable to concentrate, you’re not enlightened enough. Meditate harder.
There are book tours and then there are book tours. You either get the full-scale, all-expenses-paid treatment from your publisher, or else you get a request to plan it all and pay for it all yourself. In the weeks after his latest novel came out, our own Bill Morris set off on a DIY tour — all driving, no flying — about which he’s been writing dispatches for The Daily Beast. This week, he thinks about the changing nature of book promotion, recounts his nights in dumpy motels and compares his experience to that of our own Edan Lepucki. (FYI, they talked about writing their novels in a Millions piece.)
After five years, Lev Grossman has released the final book in his Magicians trilogy, aptly reviewed in the Sunday Timesby our own Edan Lepucki. At Slate, the Awl cofounder, Year in Reading alum and novelist Choire Sicha looks back on the series as a whole. After reading through all three entries, Choire poses a simple but hard-to-answer question: is main character Quentin truly the central figure of the books? It might also be a good time to read our interview with Grossman.
Tuesday New Release Day
Our own Bill Morris has a new novel on shelves this week, which you can learn more about in his recent conversation with our own Edan Lepucki. Also out: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman; Wayfaring Stranger by James Lee Burke; All I Love and Know by Judith Frank; Evergreen by Rebecca Rasmussen; The Hour of Lead by Bruce Holbert; The Spark and the Drive by Wayne Harrison; Owen’s Daughter by Jo-Ann Mapson; and Season to Taste by Natalie Young. Support The Millions: Bookmark this link and start there when you shop at Amazon.
Tuesday New Release Day
Out this week: The Land of Love and Drowning by Tiphanie Yanique; Last Stories and Other Stories by William T. Vollmann; High as the Horses’ Bridles by Scott Cheshire;The Hundred-Year House by Rebecca Makkai; Tomorrow and Tomorrow by Thomas Sweterlitsch; A Brave Man Seven Storeys Tall by Will Chancellor; The Confessions of Frances Godwin by Robert Hellenga; Don’t Try to Find Me by Holly Brown; The Girls from Corona del Mar by Rufi Thorpe;Mr. Gwyn by Alessandro Baricco; Road Ends by Mary Lawson; and our own Edan Lepucki’s California (which you may have seen on Colbert). For more, go read our Great Second-half 2014 Book Preview. Support The Millions: Bookmark this link and start there when you shop at Amazon.
The Millions‘s own Edan Lepucki has a novel, California, coming out next week and a lovely feature in The New York Times in the meantime.