Caroline is a fictionist and poet still awaiting a publishing company to take her on and solve all of her many problems, the way a corporate fairy godmother might. She reads anything she can get her hands on, but adores-- in particular-- contemporary fiction and poetry, eighteenth-century literature that subverts gender and sexuality norms, young adult fiction, and anything by Daniel Handler. She sees fiction not only as a form of imaginative empathy but of tangible resistance. She is particularly interested in nude color palettes, feminism, the cinematic portrayal of Tibet, Norwegian vegetation, minimalist piano, fresh daffodils, long-distance running, and mental healthcare as a social justice issue.
Jenny Xie’s debut operates in achingly pleasurable dualities— the solitary and the universal, the stranger and the heart, the tender and the stark. In poems that take us from Sapa to Corfu to Hefei, we find ourselves at once traversing the globe and "tunneling inward." It is a collection of landscapes, both geographical and psychological— and Eye Level explores what it means to pass through them, never quite settling. Even while she speaks of aloneness, of “endless conversations with no listener,” Xie’s masterful sense of sonic texture— a grasp of music and rhythm that lures the grief and apathy into something fine as a needle, that opens us up and then stitches us back together again— offers a tenderness we’ll want to witness, over and over.
This is a finely-wrought Dickensian bildungsroman that follows the life of Theodore Decker and his tangled link to a seventeenth-century painting. Humor, peculiarity, terror, aching existential dread-- Tartt elicits it all in winding, imagistic prose. (Her writing almost tangibly glows-- the first time I read this, I thought, for the first several pages, that it must be a fantasy novel because of the pure magic with which she world-builds.) Tartt has a striking way of combining action-laced plot with subtle and poignant meditations on art, family, and loss. The one & only book that has my whole heart and will have it always.
A debut author, Mira T. Lee manages more than a deftly-woven narrative here-- her novel also meditates, via multiple perspectives, on immigration, illness, and (perhaps most compellingly) other-ness. It is the direct access to Lucy's thoughts that proves to be the gem in Everything Here Is Beautiful. While other portrayals of individuals with mental illness often give in to reduction, trope, or monochrome, Lee's humanizes Lucy. At her highest point, Lee emphasizes the madness present in our everyday lives-- mental illness or not.
Jane Hirshfield wrote, in a collection of essays published in 2015, that a poem should be like a "ruined house." Through its broken roof planks, a terrible wind blows in-- and yet the gaps also allow the moonlight to leak through. There is no better way to illustrate the poems in The Beauty-- poems that will, all at once, break you open and offer you light. If you're not a poetry fan, try cracking this open and reading "My Life was the Size of My Life" and "Fado"-- they just might change your mind. A stunning collection from a celebrated contemporary poet.