In a world full of sex comedies, could there be such a thing as a sex drama? Perhaps? Brandon Taylor’s debut novel follows Wallace, a grad student, through a weekend which will forever change his life. As a reader, I picked up the book prepared for the truncated timeline. Knowing the short period of exposition only heightened the drama.
Wallace’s father has just passed away, unknown to his grad school friends at the beginning of the novel. In fact, many things are unknown to those friends. Their grad school life is centered as much on their labs as on the lake near their university. Wallace is one of the few students of color in the department, and while many of his friend group are also gay, the forces of whiteness and straightness still find their default forces to push against Wallace’s sense of worth and work.
Without giving away major plot details, Wallace and Miller’s relationship is the taut string of the tennis racket that everything else bounces off of. I’ve never read dialogue like those between Miller and Wallace before. Read it and talk to me about the fried fish scene, and what comes before. I’m dying to have this conversation with someone.
Some literary novels have little forward momentum– this one flies. I read it in three sittings, afraid that if I stepped away too long, I would miss something.
And I Do Not Forgive You is a 2020 release, and the short story collection from Amber Sparks with the subtitle “and other revenges.” Boy does it live up to that subtitle. At its heart, the collection shows modern people in the quasi-fantastic, mostly-all-too-real world of technology, familial betrayal, and city life. The princesses, kings, and queens which people some of the most fairy-tale-esque of the stories don’t reside in some 1400s Europe that never was– they live now, here, and struggle as we do now, here. A stand-out in that department was “The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines,” where the magical-realist elements meshed so nicely with the themes that I found myself bookmarking it again to read later.
While I didn’t love every story in the collection, I could find myself wanting to read them all again to find new depths. My absolute favorite story was “A Short and Slightly Speculative History of the Lavoisier’s Wife,” which was honestly one of the best short stories I’ve read in a while in terms of form and voice.
In general, the stories have distinct tones and themes, but each shine with a lush mixture of gritty vernacular (“#Bullshit, I said, and you said the #endtimes was no place for #haters”) and taut phrasing.
And I Do Not Forgive You is a collection you’ll want to share and discuss, both for its feminist themes and commentary on modern life as well as for its prose. Brava to Sparks.
And I Do Not Forgive You: Stories and Other Revenges by Amber Sparks
Illegal is a graphic novel by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, with a primary audience of children (probably ages ten and up), and this is the kind of book that every child should have access to.
Colfer and Donkin trace the fictional path of Ebo, a young Ghanian boy, as he makes his way to Europe in search of his siblings Kwame and Sisi. Ebo encounters sickness and peril on his journey, all written by Colfer (of Artemis Fowl fame) and Donkin (DC comics work) and illustrated by Giovanni Rigano. The illustrations are beautifully colored, with lots of wide shots to give readers an idea of what kinds of places Ebo travels through.
Colfer starts the book with an epigraph from Elie Wiesel’s “no human being is illegal” quote. What this graphic novel does, even more than a traditional novel would, is let a young (or not-so-young) reader place themselves in the shoes of an immigrant attempting to find refuge. In this particular story, the person is a young Ghanain boy seeking Italy’s shores, but the wider message is applicable to all people searching for safety.
In short, beautiful illustrations of a fictional, but realistic, story. Highly recommended.
Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin (Sourcebooks Jabberwockey)