Weekend Reading

Erin Kodicek on January 12, 2018

surveillance_valley.pngIn this edition, two timely reads ripped from the headlines, a new novel from Man Booker winner Alan Hollinghurst, and some comic relief...

Jon Foro: It’s reasonable if you missed reauthorization of Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by the House of Representatives earlier this week; there’s a lot of news these days, and it sounds technical, boring. If you’re not familiar, the tl;dr version is that proponents view it as an essential tool for fighting terrorism, while opponents argue its loopholes allow warrantless surveillance of American citizens. Two books coming in February seem appropriate: Bernard Harcourt’s The Counterrevolution, an accounting of counterinsurgency techniques that have been adopted domestically; and Surveillance Valley, Yasha Levine’s history of the internet as a tool for the military, designed for collecting intelligence on both “enemies” at home and abroad. TGIF!

Erin Kodicek: There has been a sea change over the decades, but 1940s London was not the time nor place to make even a discreet to-do about one’s sexuality. For engineering student David Sparsholt, not being able to be honest about this aspect of himself has devastating ripple effects, that will be felt even by future generations. This subject matter is signature Alan Hollinghurst, whose Swimming Pool Library was dubbed “the best book about gay life yet written by an English author” (Edmund White). Excited to see how The Sparsholt Affair compares.

Sarah Harrison Smith: Having confessed to spending the holidays holed up with Bridget Jones’s Diary, I have now lost all shame, and can freely admit that I couldn’t resist reading, way too early, a book that won’t come out until June: Allison Pearson’s How Hard Can It Be? This is the highly anticipated sequel to her very funny bestseller, I Don’t Know How She Does It, which, you may remember, was about the tribulations of an over-committed mother, wife, and banker named Kate Reddy. The new novel picks up Kate’s story seven years later. On the cusp of her 50th birthday, she’s trying to lose the love handles, talk her way into new job, raise her teenage kids and maybe keep her marriage together. Or not. It’s a tricky business for Kate, and it’s tricky for Allison Pearson, too: making comedy out of all-too-real midlife woes requires telling some secrets that readers in a similar situation might wish she didn’t air so publicly. But that’s the nature of comedy, isn’t it? If it doesn’t make you slightly uncomfortable, it’s not succeeding. And succeeding is one thing Kate Reddy and Allison Pearson both do very well. When June comes, read it for yourself to see exactly … how she does it.

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