Reading Roundup: April 2019

The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi.  Do you know, I’ve been sporadically reading John Scalzi’s blog Whatever for upwards of ten years, and I’ve never read any one of his books. I have to admit that I assumed they’d be a little more rocketships-and-spacewars than I typically look for in science fiction. But the first book in the Interdependency series was free with Tor’s newsletter last month–have you signed up for Tor’s newsletter? you probably should, there are monthly free ebooks!!–and what do you know, it’s a delightful read and fully accessible whether or not you came for the intergalactic politics. His writing is just as breezy and personal as the blog, but the characters are well-drawn and it’s their various stakes in the Interdependency that made it a pageturner for me.

Life in Code: A Personal History of Technology by Ellen Ullman. I borrowed this from a friend and read it sporadically this spring, when I felt confident I could take it on my commute without damaging its pristine cover. This is a series of essays that offer fascinating, probing glimpses of programming life starting in the early dot-com days, when I was a consumer of nascent internet services but knew nothing of how it was built. Ullman is an elegant writer and I appreciated her careful, nuanced perspective.

I’m Fine and Neither are You by Camille Pagán. This was an Amazon FirstReads this month, and even when I chose it from the limited monthly selection, I wasn’t sure it was for me: it opens with a harried young mother who is dissatisfied in her marriage and her job, which is a story I will totally read (e.g. loved The Ten-Year Nap) but which may not land for me as it would for someone who has experienced a young family. But then the main character loses someone close to her, and I found myself anxious to find out how she finds resolution. Spoiler: mainly through speaking up for herself, which sounds a bit trite but you know what? We all need the reminder sometimes.

Elsewhere on the Internet

I don’t have as strong of a personal connection to Emily Dickinson as one might assume (as I am a white female literary scholar educated partly on the East Coast) but I am so excited for Wild Nights with Emily, a super gay retelling of her life. And it’s not just like “Oh wow how cool would it be if this important historical person was gay”–it’s like “Oh hey we used spectrographic technology on Emily’s heavily redacted letters to her brother’s wife, and it turns out that the blacked-out parts of the letter are super gay, and also that the woman redacting these gay letters was having an affair with Emily’s brother, and now we made a movie about that hot mess.” Vulture has some backstory. I love this, I can’t wait.

At Electric Literature, A Perfectly Normal Interview with Carmen Maria Machado Where Everything Is Fine. Having just read the deliciously savage interview that revealed Bret Easton Ellis’s truest vapid self, I was preparing to get the popcorn when this piece took… a turn…

The Paris Review: On Classic Party Fiction (warning: more melancholy than festive)

I’ve long enjoyed Anne Helen Peterson’s accessible scholarship on Hollywood scandals, but I was struck by her newsletter musing on the similarities between adjuncting, teaching yoga, and multi-level marketing.

I’m not throwing my lot in with any particular Democratic candidate yet (although there are a few I’d like to see sit back down). As yet agnostic, I can respect the historic importance of Mayor Pete’s run even as I enjoy this subtle burn from a parody Twitter account:

I find this a rather literary take on a rather literary television show that I love, and I am snapping up all nonspoilery coverage while I wait for season 2 to make it to Hulu: Serial Killer As Instagram Influencer? On Killing Eve‘s Cool Girl Assassin on LitHub.

Write to the Paris Review for advice, get a poem prescribed to your ills.

Remember how I have a favorite bookstore that lays out clearance books like traps? Remember how I have gone there to purchase paper copies of books I initially started reading on my phone? It’s closing. I’m very sad.


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