Weekend Reading

Erin Kodicek on October 12, 2017

ArdenIn this edition, something for Star Wars and superhero fans, a modern-day retelling of King Lear, a chilling exposé from a storied whistle-blower, and more.

Adrian Liang: I hope you-all didn’t forget that the new Star Wars movie releases in December. I just bought my family’s tickets, so now I can heave a sigh of relief and settle in with a copy of Star Wars: From a Certain Point of View and immerse myself even deeper in the Star Wars universe. Forty authors, including Pierce Brown, Nnedi Okorofor, Elizabeth Wein, Ken Liu, and Matt Fraction, retell moments of Star Wars: A New Hope from the viewpoint of characters onscreen and off. I just made my daughter rewatch A New Hope in preparation for The Last Jedi (yes, we will be seeing episodes V, VI, and VII as well before December), so I’m primed to get inside the heads of characters like Biggs and Boba Fett. December also sees the release of Katharine Arden’s The Girl in the Tower, the sequel to her magical medieval Russian fantasy, The Bear and the Nightingale. The Bear and the Nightingale reminded me in all the best ways of Naomi Novik’s Uprooted, which we named the best science fiction and fantasy book of 2015. I’m halfway through The Girl in the Tower, and its blend of grit and innocence is mesmerizing.

Seira Wilson: This weekend I’m going to start Renegades – the first book in a new series from one of my favorite young adult authors, Marissa Meyer.  Renegades twists the superhero theme and the novel has star-crossed love, clash of good and evil, and questions of where those lines cross. I’m also going back to a thriller I’ve been wanting to read— Behind Closed Doors. A friend recently asked me about it, said he’d read it on a plane and LOVED it, so that was just the prompt I needed to get back to this psychological twister about a marriage that looks perfect on the outside but as the title says, what about Behind Closed Doors…. Hmmm…

Sarah Harrison Smith: If you’ve read Edward St. Aubyn’s Melrose novels you know that he is just the man to take on a contemporary reimagining of King Lear: messed-up privileged people are his specialty (some might say his birthright). St. Aubyn casts this novelization of the play amongst a totally dysfunctional, Murdoch-like family, whose patriarch, the eponymous Dunbar, has handed all responsibility for his empire to his eldest daughters. Not a good idea, as you probably remember. St. Aubyn has an extraordinary facility with dialog, and his first scene, in which Dunbar, captive in a British nursing home, banters with another inmate, a kind of alcoholic Fool, sets the stage with minimal explanation and maximal wit. I definitely won’t be leaving at intermission, though I know how the story ends.

Jon Foro: Want to hear something funny? When Daniel Ellsberg was busy photocopying the Pentagon Papers – the set of classified documents that outlined the actual scope of the Vietnam War, the scale and illegality of which was unknown to the American public - he was also collecting information about the capabilities of the United States’ nuclear arsenal, especially its philosophies and strategies regarding its use. Again, what he found was not what we’d been told – that these devastating weapons only existed as a method of deterrence, a looming threat against anyone considering acting against us. Rather, the options of “first strike” or “first use” were, and are, always key components of American foreign strategy. That’s just from the introduction of his forthcoming book, The Doomsday Machine, along with a high-level descriptions of previous near-calamities and weaknesses built into launch protocols, both within the U.S.’s military and our adversaries’. Ellsberg, who worked in the highest levels of government crafting nuclear strategy (before he became a whistleblower), lost those copies long ago, and for decades he held his knowledge close for fear of prosecution. But more recent Freedom of Information Act disclosures have made him a little more comfortable in sharing his experience and information, and It’s not reassuring.

Erin Kodicek: I'm going to check out, with a bit of trepidation, Maude Julien's The Only Girl in the World, an upcoming memoir that a colleague described as being very good, but very, VERY disturbing. Maude's parents subjected her to a horrifying degree of physical and psychological torture, all in pursuit of raising a child who could survive anything (her "training" included things like being forced to grasp charged electric fences with nary a wince). I'm fascinated to find out how she survived her parents, but I have a feeling that will entail a lot of wincing on my part.

Chris Schluep: I started reading Kazuo Ishiguro’s Remains of the Day after he won the Nobel in Literature. Don’t trust nostalgia. Don’t put your faith in the way things have always been done. The only constant is change. There are very few butlers left.


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