In this edition, 1950s America as seen through the eyes of a famed Swiss photographer, another of Margaret Atwood's works hits the little screen, a novel by one of Spain's most lauded writers, and more.
Jon Foro: Robert Frank’s The Americans stands as one of the most influential records of the 20th century, a collection of 83 photographs (culled from 27,000 taken on a cross-country road trip) contrasting gritty scenes of hard lives against images of singular American beauty – automobiles, jukeboxes, and the open road. R.J. Smith’s American Witness (it’s hard to write this without repeating “American” several times) recounts Frank’s life from his childhood in Switzerland to his arrival in New York City (where he befriended the likes of Ginsberg, Kerouac, and fellow photographer Walker Evans) and his later life and sometimes notorious career.
Erin Kodicek: Hulu recently streamed the wildly popular series, The Handmaid's Tale, based on Margaret Atwood's scarily brilliant and prophetic book of the same name. Not to be outdone, Netflix will premier its adaptation of another of Atwood's novels, Alias Grace, in early November. Talking about the two at the Toronto International Film Festival, screenwriter Sarah Polley remarked: “I think with ‘Alias Grace’ we can look back to where we’ve come from as women, and ‘Handmaid’s Tale’ is this cautionary tale of where we could be going.” The story is based on a notorious true crime from the 19th century, where two servants were convicted of murdering their employer and his mistress. One was hanged and Grace Marks was given a life sentence. But did she actually do the deed? Read it before you see it!
Chris Schluep: I’m going away for a long weekend, so I thought I’d try reading something that wasn’t published this year. That book is A Heart So White by Javier Marias. It was recommended by an author I like, and I’ve been waiting to find the time to read the book. Marias is a sensation in Spain and other parts of Europe. I hope he’ll prove to be one this weekend. Here’s a story about him from a couple years ago, in case you’re interested.
Seira Wilson: I’m listening to the audio of My Absolute Darling and am down to the last 3 hours so I’m going to sit in the last of the summer sun this weekend and see how it all ends. It’s an incredible book – so many emotions have passed through me over the hours: fear, sadness, anger, joy—that’s the sign of a story that sticks with you. There’s some tough subject matter, not gonna lie, but the remarkable girl at the center of it has won my heart. I’m also going to make something fabulous for the Seahawks game on Sunday from my preview edition of the new Smitten Kitchen Every Day Cookbook. Will try to keep myself in check and not go in thinking I’ll whip up 5 dishes then stress out about it. The whole point of this cookbook is to create unfussy, no-stress meals, after all…
Sarah Harrison Smith: By now you’ve probably heard that Mohsin Hamid’s 2017 novel, Exit West, is one of the handful of books on the Man Booker Prize shortlist. Though there are surprises on that list, Exit West isn’t one of them, for the excellent reason that Hamid’s a seasoned writer whose work has been very strong from the start. His first novel, Moth Smoke, was among other things, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award. To my shame, I haven’t read anything of his other than Exit West, so I was eager to look back at his earlier books, and I’ve just begun The Reluctant Fundamentalist, which he published in 2007. It, too, was shortlisted for the Booker, and I’m curious to see how his writing has changed over the past ten years. I’m hoping his perspective has that mix of urbanity, compassion and guarded optimism that made Exit West such a hit.
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