A year has passed, sheltered in place. I went through months of not reading at all, and then weeks when I swallowed five books and couldn’t stop. Lots of good work came through my life and I want to share it with you.
In February, I read this deeply creepy story by Suzan Palumbo. Horror is as delicate as humor, and it all comes down to that final line. “Laughter Among the Trees” has an absolute coffin nail for an ending. Another winner from The Dark.
I’ve read a lot of stories about “We, the Girls Who Did Not Make It,” but this one by E.A. Petricone does the best job of walking the tightrope between fair and satisfying. The author knows that most of the girls in a horror story won’t make it, but she makes sure they stay in the center and get their triumph anyhow.
PEN15 is one of the best shows on television, and I do not say lightly that it takes on some of subtlest, ugliest, most real facets of girlhood of any piece of art I’ve ever witnessed. This essay by Nina Coomes looks deeper into one of the central relationships in the show, and if you haven’t watched it yet this might convince you.
Brandon Taylor’s story “Prophets” in Joyland is a wonderfully evocative piece about which memories surface to us in what moments and why. I was riveted through this whole thing; he’s got a gift.
Lincoln Michel pulled off that tough trick of saying something meaningful arising from the Discourse on Twitter. He wrote about the relationship between artists, copyright, and how we get paid in a moment when everybody was losing their heads about it in public. It’s thoughtful and examines the power that underpins intellectual property, and how it can be hoarded just like capital. If you’re still thinking about this like I am, this is a way to stretch your brain where it’s sore.
In books: I LOVED Melissa Broder’s Milk Fed. It’s a deceptive novel, starting off in a shallow register that obsesses about calories and the deepens at a dizzying pace, becoming sensual and mystical and inimitable. It also makes a fat woman the object of burning curiosity, lust, and desire, in a way that I don’t think I’ve ever seen before. My dear friend, the author Maggie Tokuda-Hall, told me that I should read it, but also said that the recommendation was like working herself over and then asking me to smell her fingers. She’s right; it’s a visceral portrait of vulnerable and shameless female desire. So here I am, doing the same thing.
I also loved “Four Lost Cities” by Annalee Newitz. It’s a conversational yet exact discussion of the cities of Pompeii, Angkor Wat, Cahokia, and Çatalhöyük, focusing on everyday life among working-class and enslaved people rather than the rich and royal. It was a fascinating read, and not just because it taught me how to spell “queen of cocksuckers” in Latin.