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Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

Recommendations from the staff at Seven Stories Press

We have heard you, crawling across the desert on your hands and knees in the tatters of your clothes, and readers, this is no mirage! Relief at last; our staff recommendations for August, 2022!

This latest installment of Seven Stories Staff Picks, all of our book recommendations link directly to our comrades at Bluestockings Cooperative, a bookstore and community space on the lower east side.

The Plumber (1978)

At one point or another, everyone must contend with their first Leak. Mine started in 2016. I was living alone in a tiny first-floor apartment in Bushwick when I noticed a narrow streak appear down the wall of my bathroom. Fast forward 18 months and roughly 500 increasingly desperate emails to my landlord (ignored), and my bathroom ceiling has almost completely collapsed. Finally, my landlord accepts there might be a problem and sends over a repair man. And so begins my incredibly banal nightmare. 

In “The Plumber” (1978), an Australian made-for-TV movie directed by Peter Weir (“Picnic at Hanging Rock,” “The Truman Show,” etc), two academics find themselves in a similarly banal, but significantly more entertaining, nightmare, when a plumber arrives at their apartment to fix a leak in their bathroom. As the film progresses, the plumber becomes increasingly erratic, eventually pulling apart their entire bathroom and erecting elaborate scaffolding that renders it largely unusable. And there’s still a leak. 

“The Plumber” is a perfect film. It’s hilarious, it’s bizarre, and I highly recommend it for anyone who delights in absurdity, enjoys some lighthearted roasting of academics and the petit bourgeois, and loves a thick Australian accent. It’s on Criterion, and everyone should watch it.


The Age of Innocence

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

Read Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence, after Steve Fagin's wonderful (very loose) film adaptation of it made me curious. Wharton is such a great wordsmith. She was a contemporary of Kafka and Robert Graves, Wilfred Owen, Jean Cocteau. But manages here to keep out any whiff of a modern sensibility. In the end her portrait of the American upper class families of New York is a stifling one and indeed this is a story of a suppressed romance that is finally stamped out completely by convention and convenience. All that said, her portraits are really marvelous and memorable.


The Copenhagen Trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen. 

Yes, it's as devastating as everyone says. Yes, you need to read it. I can't remember a work of literature that has affected me so deeply. 

On a lighter note, Villano Antillano has been the soundtrack to my summer. Her freestyle with Argentinian producer Bizarrap went viral earlier this year, and the trans rapper has been redefining the genre of "urbano" music in Puerto Rico, a scene that is historically sexist and male-dominated. Her surprise appearance at Bad Bunny's arena show in San Juan catapulted her to a whole new audience, and I can't wait to hear what comes next. 


The "Part" Trilogy by Rodrigo Fresán

My summer project has been reading through all three books in Rodrigo Fresán’s “part” trilogy—The Invented Part, The Dreamed Part, and The Remembered Part—published by Open Letter and translated from the Spanish by Will Vanderhyden. The short version is that a writer, known only as The Writer, attempts to break into the CERN facility outside of Geneva because he wants to atomize himself and become the writer of the universe. He fails to do so, stays up all night worrying, and then begins to obsessively re-read his own work. 

While it doesn’t sound like much, the three books offer a wild adrenaline rush across their 2000-ish total pages, even for someone who loves “encyclopedic novels” the way that I do. Fresán’s breathless style is a headfirst plunge through thousands of different digressions, on topics ranging from doomed writers (F. Scott Fitzgerald, Malcolm Lowry, Emily Brontë) to superhero movies to Pink Floyd to 8th century Chinese literature. These books make my head spin a little, and I mean that as the highest compliment.


The Wind In The Willows by Kenneth Grahame

Sometimes you just want to read a classic children's story about talking animals who drive little cars and say things like "Capital!" If this sounds like you, I recommend The Wind in the Willows, which somehow I never got around to reading as a kid. I recently found a used copy and have been reading a few pages every night before I go to sleep to wind down. It is perfect bedtime reading, a gentle, charming, and wise story about friendship and the aforementioned animals in tiny cars. 


The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Ken Loach's film "The Wind That Shakes the Barley" is the story of two brothers in 1920s County Cork, united at first in their fight against the British, but then on opposing sides of the Anglo-Irish Treaty as Civil War violence escalates. A young Cillian Murphy is heartbreaking as Damien, a newly graduated doctor who gives up his practice to join local IRA forces. The film plays out in green country fields and dusty cottages as the young villagers engage in a war against enemies who appear closer and closer to home. Beautiful but haunting to watch and highly recommended.


All This Could Be Different by Sarah Thankam Matthews

I just picked up Sarah Thankam Matthews’ brilliant new novel All This Could Be Different. It’s a queer bildungsroman; a love letter to friendship, choice, and coming home that follows a young woman and Indian immigrant named Sneha. Sneha, graduating into an American recession and grateful for any job she can get, moves to Milwaukee— a city where she knows no one, and where her past soon begins to unravel. Growing up between Oman and Kerala, Sarah is the founder of the mutual aid project Bed-Study Strong. Her communities, and community work, obviously root the book. Come for beautiful prose and delicately crafted characters. Stay for a successful attempt at putting words to the unnameable, messy parts of becoming. 


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