Recommendations from the staff at Seven Stories Press
Flowers of Mold by Ha Seong-Nan, trans. by Janet Hong
A train line I regularly use is undergoing construction, so weekend trips along that line are typically fraught with delays, transfers, and other sorts of transportation hell. This weekend was no exception, only this time I had Flowers of Mold. A collection of short stories, Open Letter's first Seong-Nan translation is delightfully strange, dark, and totally gripping. In one story, the arrival of a new, needy neighbor coincides with the protagonist's sudden memory-loss. In another, a BMW-driving landlord decides to evict his tenants right before a building-wide retreat in countryside—a location that happens to be a great place to dispose of a body. My train was apparently stalled for 20+ minutes, but I was too wrapped up in this book to notice or care.
Faking It: The Lies Women Tell About Sex—And The Truths They Reveal by Lux Alpatraum
Faking It is great non-fiction book exploring the reasons behind women lying about sex, why women are hesistant to take control and why women are afraid to speak up regarding their pleasure.
The Visitor by Maeve Brennan
The Visitor is a sad and austere novella about returning to a place where you no longer belong. The gestures and speech of the characters conceal desires they do not allow themselves to fulfill. Few writers are as careful as Brennan.
Fantasy Island by Ed Morales
I've been talking about this book for weeks now, but just finished it now and the reason it took me so long is because I'd get so angry at that I'd have to close it and take a deep breath before continuing. Ed Morales, a Nuyorican, traces the history of Puerto Rico and colonialism, from the time of U.S. acquisition, to PROMESA, and up until the "disaster capitalism" and the vultures that have descended upon the island brought upon by Hurricane Maria. It's one of the most important books I've read all year. Read it and I hope it makes you angry too!!!
"Ode to the Sublime by Monica Vitti" by Anne Carson (and Sweet Days of Discipline by Fleur Jaeggy)
I was going to recommend Fleur Jaeggy’s Sweet Days of Discipline this month but it seems like just about everyone else on the internet is doing that (there’s even a comic about it!), so instead I recommend Anne Carson’s “Ode to the Sublime by Monica Vitti,” which I went looking for after I listened to a podcast in which Carson alluded to it. All I can say is this poem is sublime, with its incantatory repetition of “everything,” its vague air of menace, the power of those words “I would take with me everything I see,” set down like a credo, or a dare. It’s a fierce, perfect poem, and it has haunted me ever since I read it.
"ContraPoints" from Natalie Wynn
In 2016, Natalie Wynn created her YouTube channel, "ContraPoints," as a response to the increasing prevalence of right-wing YouTubers who were overhauling the platform. Speaking from the perspective of a transgender woman, "ContraPoints" interrogates the toxic belief systems of the far right while examining the ways identity is constructed in the 21st century. Her extravagant production style coupled with her dark sense of humor makes these video essays as entertaining as they are informative—a refreshing refrain from the awkward webcam rants of many other YouTube essayists. Personally, I am enamored by Natile Wynn’s ability to blend candid conversation with a sarcastic edge that tears the thinking of the far right to shreds.
Our Planet, a documentary narrated by David Attenborough
There is only one thing I can recommend, over and over again: the documentary Our Planet, an astounding film that everyone should be watching now. Not only does it showcase the wondrous, fragile beauty of earth, but also the multiple, mysterious ways that nature can recover and strive.
Beautifully narrated by David Attenborough, it is at times profoundly sad but always humbling and inspiring. It makes us feel grateful and proud to be a part of this amazing planet, and encourages us to stand up and take the steps we must urgently take to save all life on earth. It is up to us all, and it is up to us now.