Tag Archives: Twentysomethings

In the Cards, by Angela D’Onofrio (2016)

D’Onofrio’s novels take place in fictitious Aviario, Connecticut, a town where the underground lines of magic intersect and supernatural happenings abound. This second book in the series revolves around a string of murders, a demon that haunts one of the town’s oldest families, and a romance that everyone except the main character thinks is a bad idea.  The story’s real energy, however, comes from its twentysomething cast of characters who read tarot cards, run a magic shop, play table-top games, and never fail to talk like real people, making the whole novel feel decidedly current (spirit animals notwithstanding).

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Angela D’Onofrio’s website

Author interview

The Possessed, by Elif Batuman (2010)

Elif Batuman is a grad student in Russian literature, and these essays are about her adventures.  Aside from some dense portions related to the actual Russian literature, this book moves, due in no small part to Batuman’s dry, quick-witted humor that pokes fun at everyone from the Uzbek landlord who feeds her from an ant-covered jam jar to the elderly professor who literally shits his pants.  The real gems, however, are Batuman’s introduction on why she avoided creative writing (reminiscent of her essay “Get a Real Degree”) and her reflections on grad student obsessions—both pointed commentaries on academia.

Rating

No One Belongs Here More Than You, by Miranda July (2007)

I loved this book.  I loved how its stories are meaningful but also speckled with Miranda July’s dry humor (“As with the whole-grain bread, Carl did not initially leap into the idea with enthusiasm”) that stops them from ever being too pretentious.  I love that these stories are about relationships that don’t always work.  I love that July’s characters undergo real emotional turmoil.  I love how there are things about these stories I don’t understand, and that I’m OK with that.  Finally, I love that this paperback comes in five different colors and that mine happens to be orange.

Rating

Sputnik Sweetheart, by Haruki Murakami (2001)

An aloof college student falls in love with his best friend, a wannabe writer beatnik—the only catch is that she’s also in love with a businesswoman seventeen years older than her.  Sumire’s an outgoing, speaks-her-mind girl in classic Murakami fashion (she reminded me of Midori in Norwegian Wood) who gives life to much of the novel, which Murakami tells in short spurts between section breaks.  While a lot of Murakami’s subject matter feels familiar, the story’s compactness keeps it moving, with the ending evoking an uncertain stillness that makes the whole novel seem more whole.

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Modern Romance, by Aziz Ansari (with Eric Klinenberg, 2015)

Dick pics. Waiting exactly two hours before responding to a flirty text.  Swiping through Tinder while at an actual bar because the people there aren’t quite good enough.  Aziz Ansari reveals string after string of sharp, relatable truths about 21st century phone-based dating and how today’s young adults struggle through a new period of emerging adulthood in their quests for the perfect soulmate.  The book smartly blends sociological research, jokes about rappers, insights into the dating scenes in Japan and Buenos Aires, and actual, useful advice for navigating the ever-changing world of modern romance.  Well played, Aziz.

Rating:

5-kafkas

Where I Got It

Bought online this September ago after telling myself for months that I was finally going to read the damned thing.

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Aziz Ansari essay, Everything You Thought You Knew About L-O-V-E is Wrong

Eric Klinenberg’s website

The Sunshine Crust Baking Factory, by Stacy Wakefield (2014)

An indie novel about twentysomething punk squatters in New York City in the ‘90s—where do I sign?  I was really excited to read this book but was disappointed by the plot (which does a fair amount of wandering), the characters (which, apart from the coolheaded but hasn’t-found-her-place-yet narrator, never quite stand out), and some lackluster scenes.  What Wakefield does really well instead, though, is show the hazards of Brooklyn squatting life (which is a lot more organized than I’d imagined) by capturing the mechanics of garbage disposal and squatters’ rights in ways that feel intricate and real.

Rating:

2-kafkas

Where I Got It

Bought new at Quimby’s bookstore in Chicago while on a trip, Summer 2015.

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The Sunshine Crust Baking factory at Akashic Books

Interview with Former-NYC squatter Stacy Wakefield

The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath, ed. by Karen V. Kukil (2000)

I like books where writers talk insightfully about writing, and I also like books about young people finding their way—Sylvia Plath’s journals have both.  She worries about the same things writers today do: getting published, getting rejected, making money as a writer, never recapturing her earlier success, and whether teaching is killing her creative drive, though she also worries a lot about dating and relationships (including whether 1950s gender roles will smother her creativity).  The only problem is that finding these insights requires sifting through 500+ pages of journals and a lengthy Appendix.  I recommend judicial skimming.

Rating:

3-kafkas

Where I Got It

Found in my office in grad school, left by previous inhabitant.

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Sylvia Plath on Wikipedia

List of Quotes (for the skimmers)

Interview with Karen V. Kukil

Less Than Zero, by Bret Easton Ellis (1985)

Bret Easton Ellis’s first novel feels like a 1980s version of The Sun Also Rises with heroin, male prostitution, and at least one snuff film, which was probably the same level of scandal as when Hemingway’s characters got drunk and had premarital sex in 1926. The whole novel evokes a quiet, disconcerting loathing for the fast-paced, aimless LA lifestyle of its post-high school characters, with subdued yet depressing descriptions of everything from desert scenery to shooting up heroin. It’s also a fast read that leaves you with a distinctly unsettled feeling, but in a good way.

Rating:
4-kafkas
Where I Got It

Ordered online in Summer 2015 after having this on my informal To-Read list since college.

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Wikipedia page