Susan Barker photographed by Derek Anson.
It’s not your typical love letter:
“Every night I wake from dreaming. Memory squeezing the trigger of my heart and blood surging through my veins,” begins “The First Letter,” the opening chapter of Susan Barker’s wondrous third novel, The Incarnations.
“...I dream that we stagger on hunger-weakened limbs through the Gobi as the Mongols drive us forth with lashing whips,” it continues. “...I dream of sixteen palace ladies gathered in the Pavilion of Melancholy Clouds ...
Helen Phillips photographed by Andy Vernon-Jones
“Beautiful” and “bureaucrat” make strange bedfellows—and provide the earliest indication that Helen Phillips’ debut novel isn’t ordinary. Singular, suspenseful, and stunning, The Beautiful Bureaucrat amply defies facile classification.
“One of my earliest ways of describing the book to myself as I was writing it was a poetic thriller, or an existential thriller,” says Phillips, an assistant professor of creative writing at Brooklyn College. She is a recipient of the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award and the Italo Calvino Prize ...
Lauren Holmes photographed by Beowulf Sheehan.
Someone hot-pink spraypainted “SLUT” across the cover of Lauren Holmes’s debut short story collection. It fits. Summer’s boldest title deserves its most eye-catching cover.
“ ‘Barbara the Slut’ was always going to be the title of the collection,” Holmes says at Bread Alone Bakery in Rhinebeck, New York. “It was one of the first stories I wrote, and it really shaped the way that I thought about the collection. I was like, Oh, I need to write a bunch ...
J. Ryan Stradal photographed by Anna Pasquarella.
When J. Ryan Stradal set out to write the book he wanted to read, he didn’t consider his current home for its setting. Instead, he took a hiatus from his job as an L.A.-based supervising producer on shows like Storage Wars and Deadliest Catch to revisit the communities and cuisines of his upbringing, about 2,000 miles northeast in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Kitchens of the Great Midwest is the result: a delectable debut garnished with ...
Paula McLain photographed by Nina Subin.
It took just one paragraph of Beryl Markham’s memoir, West with the Night, for Paula McLain to realize this was the woman she’d been waiting for.
“Immediately, I got this electric response to her voice,” says McLain, author of Circling the Sun, “and I read it deeply, knowing I was going to channel her.”
McLain (The Paris Wife, 2011) stopped work on a novel about Marie Curie to begin one on Markham, a famous horse trainer and record-setting ...
Ben Marcus photographed by Chris Doyle.
“A short story works to remind us that if we are not sometimes baffled and amazed and undone by the world around us, rendered speechless and stunned, perhaps we are not paying close enough attention,” Ben Marcus writes in the introduction to New American Stories, a statement on stateside short fiction circa 2015.
With this, Marcus, a well-known formal practitioner (Leaving the Sea, 2014; The Age of Wire and String, 1995) and professor of creative writing at Columbia University ...
Annie Liontas photographed by Sara Nordstrom.
“What do we owe our father?” is the first question asked in Let Me Explain You. That it is posed by the father, Stavros Stavros Mavrakis, to his children, via the email address SteveStavrosStavrosMavrakisgreekboss1@yahoo.com, provides a perfect introduction to the robustly mustachioed patriarch anchoring Annie Liontas’ shining debut.
“Dear, Family. Daughters & Ex-Wife: Let me explain you something: I am sick in a way that no doctor would have much understanding. I am sick in a way ...
Bethany Barton photographed by D'Avello Photography.
If Bethany Barton were a spider, she knows exactly which species she’d be.
“Definitely the peacock spider: he’s colorful, he’s fuzzy, he does a little dance,” Barton says by phone from L.A. “Have you ever seen a peacock spider dance?! You have to go to YouTube right now. It’s cool—I’ll hold.”
(She’s serious. Go click on “Peacock Spider Dances to YMCA” right now. It’s incredible.)
“Right?! It’s maybe the happiest thing in the world. He’s ...