Toward what end does art depict trauma? Can shock-and-awe heal us, or does it sometimes do more harm than good? If you are someone who snags on these questions a lot (maybe you wonder why some upsetting tv shows are wonderful and others are truly terrible!) I recommend The Art of Cruelty. Maggie Nelson's clarity is supernatural, she has fewer limiting filters than the rest of us or something, I don't know, her mind is incredible, we don't deserve her.
A hysterical and disturbing prose rendering of our internet-minds, a prescient meditation on the crumbling of Roe, and a book that at first made me wonder "do we need something this bleak?" only to completely redeem itself by digging into real life, into hope. Is it possible to exceed your hype? Holy CRAP this one is good.
If home is a complicated concept for you and you effin' hate capitalism, read this one. Imagine sheltering in place inside a Hot Topic during a global pandemic.This is a chef's kiss perfect novel.
Do you want to spend a few weeks wading through the thick paranoia of The Troubles? This book embodies a political moment without ever once feeling newsy. Its narrator knows no jargon, no propoganda, she can't name what's going on, she just knows what she feels and feels what she knows. I've never read historical fiction that does what this book does, it just blew my dang mind. Just make sure you're ready though because, whoa, content warning: stalking and threat of sexual assault simmers throughout.
If you feel like dropping out, read this guide to dropping in. I cried four times and felt a modicum of hope. I don't say this lightly: it's a necessary book.
"Text means tissue." Skin, y'all. And what is sexier than a flash of skin you weren't supposed to see? Barthes thinks what's going on between a writer and a reader is a seduction. I've never written so many exclamation points in a book in my damn life. Lit crit that is emphatically NOT boring!
Keep it by your bedside, read one or two before bed, guaranteed to chortle.
Morgan Parker has several great collections, they're all going to make your dang life, but this one was my first love. Parker's poems needle history through modern-day doldrums like it's nothing, like life is a napkin ring. It's all the same old crap, as Basquiat likes to say. Parker likes to say it, too. She has a SAMO tattoo.