What is A/S Reading? – No. 13

Between holiday parties (thanks for the gin and the mingle Housingworks) and buying gifts (might we recommend Armchair/Shotgun for that literary loved one?) we managed to–despite our best efforts not to–read some books. This is: What is A/S Reading?

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Managing Editor Laura McMillan was reading utter crap for a while there, so last week she went to the bookstore and picked up Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and Battle Royale by Koushun Takami.

It’s too close to Christmas to re-read Fun Home and I’ve been too grumpy to start Great World, so I started with Battle Royale and HOLY SHIT. I spent the whole weekend and every spare moment since buried in this 600-page monstrosity, and I love it. The premise is very similar to the wildly successful YA Hunger Games trilogy (dystopian society makes its teenagers fight to the death), but the flavor is totally different. It feels more adult and is–and I say this as someone who Suzanne Collins reduced to a quivering teary mess and who loved every minute of it–less emotionally manipulative than Mockingjay. Can’t wait to see if any of the escape plans work out; Takami is so brutal that there’s no promise of success even for the main characters.

Publicist Vicki Lame has–in her apparent need to only read beautiful books about terrible people–been reading The Patrick Melrose Novels: Never Mind, Bad News, Some Hope, and Mother’s Milk by Edward St. Aubyn.

Out in January in a gorgeous single volume that collects all four novels, The Patrick Melrose Novels is dark, depraved, and utterly addictive. I had never heard of St. Aubyn (for shame) until I was lucky enough to have my friend and fellow publishing comrade-in-arms James give me an advance galley of this new edition. (Yes, that’s right, John is no longer the only corporate whore up in here!) And I’m so glad he did. St. Aubyn skillfully examines the English upper class in beautiful but raw prose. I’m only on Never Mind, but I’ve already encountered the everyday cruelties that make us human and the uncommon cruelties that make us something a little less. I can’t wait for the next day when I have countless hours to just sink into this twisted but fascinating world.  At Last, the final installment in this series, is out early next year as well and is already on my “to read” list.

And, it turns out, Managing Editor Adam Read-Brown can still read. Having made this miraculous discovery just the other day, he picked up the collection of short fiction, Civilwarland in Bad Decline, by George Saunders.

Up until this point I had only read George Saunders’ humor pieces in The New Yorker and a book of his (fantastic) essays entitled The Braindead Megaphone. Having loved those, I still wasn’t quite sure what to expect from his fiction. Well, though I am only a few stories in to Civilwarland, I am already sad that I will be finished reading this book at some point in the very near future. Saunders brilliantly crafts stories that are laugh out loud hilarious one line, and terribly dark and sad the next. Sometimes all in the same line, actually. He also weaves in surreal and fantastic elements in a way that manages to surprise me and feel completely natural at the same time. For example, I was blown away in the title story that when the narrator began to matter-of-factly start talking to ghosts, seemingly out of nowhere… it made perfect sense. Anyways, with my newly rediscovered powers of literacy, I’m going to keep reading.

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