Outlandish Lit

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? [Sept. 26, 2016]

Monday, September 26, 2016

I'm at it again with spending more time crafting than reading. My crystal embroidery is done (well, I could add black outlines, but I'm not sure if they need it). I'm now more than halfway finished with crocheting a yoga mat holder, which is perhaps the most white girl thing I've ever said in my life dear god. But anyway, I hate crocheting, and each time I do it I have to basically reteach myself everything. It took me a ton of brain power to figure out this pattern, because I had to modify it. I don't know if people realize how much knitting and crocheting is math, it's ridiculous. But I'm now able to do it without thinking, so I can enjoy an audiobook while working. Life is good.

These colors worked together 100x better than I imagined. I was fully prepared for a hideous yoga fiesta.

ALSO, Litsy just came out for Android users! Now everyone can get in on the fun! You can follow me at @OutlandishLit to see casual reading updates in real time. If you follow me on Goodreads, you may have noticed that I'm now enormously bad at updating my reading status. And that's because I do soooo much book hopping and not finishing books. On Litsy, you'll actually hear about the books I start.

  • zip


This audiobook is still amazing. I'm already recommending  The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson to everybody and I've got like four hours left of it.

Right now I'm really really enjoying Shelter in Place by Alexander Maksik. I've never read anything by him before, but I LOVE his writing style. I keep finding myself marking passages, which is a good sign. And his representation of bipolar disorder is pretty interesting.

I literally just read the first essay in this collection last night (it was titled "Against Exercise" and it was great). Against Everything by Mark Greif is proving to be a very smart collection of critical essays already. And Mark Greif is the co-founder of n+1, who knew? I think I'm going to do an essay before bed kind of situation, which I've never really done before. Depending on how long the essays are.

What are you reading this week?


Bookends #8

Saturday, September 24, 2016

New Books & Interesting Links :: Bookends #8 :: Outlandish Lit
There are a whole bunch of books I hear about that look amazing, but realistically I'm not going to read them all. That means they may never be mentioned on Outlandish Lit, which is so tragic. Every week I'll introduce you to a few books that caught my eye and some interesting bookish links.


Already Out

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

As the daughter of a meth dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. Struggling to raise her little brother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible "adult" around. She finds peace in the starry Midwestern night sky above the fields behind her house. One night everything changes when she witnesses one of her father's thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold, wreck his motorcycle. What follows is a powerful and shocking love story between two unlikely people that asks tough questions, reminding us of all the ugly and wonderful things that life has to offer.
This sounds like a very tough read, but I'm so intrigued that I put it on hold at the library. I've heard that it's beautiful.

The Gloaming by Melanie Finn

Pilgrim's husband left her for another woman, stranding her in a Swiss town where she is involved in an accident that leaves three children dead. Cleared of responsibility though overcome with guilt, she absconds to Africa, befriending a series of locals each with their own tragic past.

Mysteriously, the remains of an albino appear, spooking everyone—sign of a curse placed by a witch doctor—though its intended recipient is uncertain. Pilgrim volunteers to rid the town of the box and its contents, though wherever she goes, she can't shake the feeling that she's being followed.
I heard from a friend that this book wasn't nearly as creepy as it sounds, which is a shame for me. But maybe good for anybody else.

The Vanished: The "Evaporated People" of Japan in Stories and Photographs by Lena Mauger

Every year, nearly one hundred thousand Japanese vanish without a trace. Known as the johatsu, or the “evaporated,” they are often driven by shame and hopelessness, leaving behind lost jobs, disappointed families, and mounting debts. In The Vanished, journalist Léna Mauger and photographer Stéphane Remael uncover the human faces behind the phenomenon through reportage, photographs, and interviews with those who left, those who stayed behind, and those who help orchestrate the disappearances. Their quest to learn the stories of the johatsu weaves its way through:

A Tokyo neighborhood so notorious for its petty criminal activities that it was literally erased from the maps
Reprogramming camps for subpar bureaucrats and businessmen to become “better” employees
The charmless citadel of Toyota City, with its iron grip on its employees
The “suicide” cliffs of Tojinbo, patrolled by a man fighting to save the desperate
The desolation of Fukushima in the aftermath of the tsunami
Thank you to Shaina for pointing this one out to me!!

Coming Out Next Month

We Show What We Have Learned: And Other Stories by Clare Beams

The literary, historic, and fantastic collide in these wise and exquisitely unsettling stories. From bewildering assemblies in school auditoriums to the murky waters of a Depression-era health resort, Beams’s landscapes are tinged with otherworldliness, and her characters’ desires stretch the limits of reality. Ing énues at a boarding school bind themselves to their headmaster’s vision of perfection ; a nineteenth-century landscape architect embarks on his first major project, but finds the terrain of class and power intractable ; a bride glimpses her husband’s past when she wears his World War II parachute as a gown ; and a teacher comes undone in front of her astonished fifth graders.
Um can we talk about the cover? PLEASE??


I'm not sure if reading this interview of Ottessa Moshfegh (author of Eileen) made me love her or made me really annoyed by her.

Tor made a list of The Year's Best Alternate Histories. COOL.

If you didn't know, it's Tolkien week! Want to learn a little more about Middle Earth? Here's some info on Luthien: Tolkien's Badass Elf Princess.

What books did you hear about this week?

Quick Reads, Quick Reviews

Friday, September 23, 2016

Quick Reads, Quick Reviews: Vertigo, One Hundred Shadows, The Subsidiary :: Outlandish Lit

Even when I'm not reading as much as normal, it's hard to resist the pull of a short book. They're the perfect thing to jump start your reading. Here are three that I recently read.

Vertigo by Joanna Walsh
Publisher: Dorothy, a publishing project. 2015.
Genre: Short Stories
Source: Independent Bookstore
Pages: 120




My daughter has made her first sacrifice to fashion. She has bought a short pink skirt with lace, which does not suit her and for which there is no suitable season or occasion. It will remain unworn, but beautiful. When she wears it, it stops being beautiful. When she takes it off, there it is, beautiful again. For this, she has given up her money.

This book engaged me like no other book could one day when I was up in the middle of nowhere with a stack of books to keep my company. I was slumping hard, but once I started this collection of vignettes, I couldn't stop. The packaging itself is stunning, the book almost square, and the words inside are also beautiful. It was one of those reads where I could tell that what I was reading was beautiful and fascinating, but I also felt not completely smart enough to get all of it. Each story takes you deep into the head of a woman (sometimes different, sometimes the same as an earlier story as far as I could tell). For the most part, we get to observe small moments but overall are given powerful insight into things like love, loss, being a person, etc. Walsh's minimalism was so elegant, I could hardly handle it. I was greatly moved by a number of these stories.

One Hundred Shadows by Hwang Jungeun, Jung Yewon (translator)
Publisher: Tilted Axis Press. Oct. 3, 2016.
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Friend



Yeah, like me, I said, and then it hit me. I looked down at my feet, and sensed something odd about the way they were outlined, against the pine cones and white oak leaves splayed over soft soil. My shadow, spread out thin, very thin, stretched out from the little toe of my right foot all the way into the thickets.

Even though I give both this and Vertigo four stars, I liked this book better. If you like your novellas in translation with a hint of creepy magical realism, this is the one for you. Set in a slum electronics market in South Korea, a girl starts to notice that her shadow is rising. Other people gradually notice the same thing, their shadows becoming their own quiet, autonomous entities. But what does it mean?? All of the relationships between the characters are so interesting. Hwang Jungeun's writing is very subtle and the strange tale was completely riveting. Jung Yewon did a fantastic job translating this novella into stark, atmospheric English. Han Kang (author of The Vegetarian) is giving this book publicity, and I have to say that I liked it more than The Vegetarian. Not that it's a contest. This is a strange, gently unsettling novella that gave me all sorts of feelings.

The Subsidiary by Matías Celedón
Publisher: Melville House. August 2016.
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Friend
Pages: 208




It is impossible to tell apart the animals.

I wanted to like this novella a lot more than I did. Despite being over 200 pages, The Subsidiary took around 20 minutes to read max. That's because each page is no more than a sentence. We've got an experimental format on our hands!! Our main character is an office worker trapped in his building when there's a mysterious power outage. The gimmick? He's writing the book using stamps. So, visually, this book is quite stunning. The story gets a little bit dark, a little bit absurdist. Some weird shit goes down in this Latin American subsidiary office. A lot is unexplained: all of the workers seem to be disabled, there's a child there (??), there's some weird sex stuff. So it seems as if none of us, the readers nor the characters, know fully what's going on. And that's totally fine with me. There just wasn't enough substance to carry the gimmick, in my opinion.

Would you check out any of these quick reads? Have one to suggest?

Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein :: Review

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein :: Outlandish Lit Review
Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein
Publisher: Picador. September 13, 2016.
Pages: 240
Genre: Short Stories
Source: Publisher



Children of the New World introduces readers to a near-future world of social media implants, memory manufacturers, dangerously immersive virtual reality games, and alarmingly intuitive robots. Many of these characters live in a utopian future of instant connection and technological gratification that belies an unbridgeable human distance, while others inhabit a post-collapse landscape made primitive by disaster, which they must work to rebuild as we once did millennia ago.
Children of the New World grapples with our unease in this modern world and how our ever-growing dependence on new technologies has changed the shape of our society.-Goodreads

I haven't been this excited about reading a book in what feels like forever. I knew that I'd like this collection of short stories. It was pitched to me as akin to the TV show Black Mirror, which I absolutely loved. And they weren't wrong about that. Here we have a collection of stories that are all speculative. Set in the very near future, things are just a little different from how they are now. People are a little more hooked into technology, the environment is more fucked, etc. Our scenarios are set up quickly and with apparent ease, and we then get to see normal people interacting with each other in these worlds. The result is at times funny, at times devastating, often both. Weinstein provides riveting stories about being human as well as biting commentary on our world. In the stories, we've got robotic siblings to help out with biological children, and what you do when they malfunction. Enlightenment as a drug (Moksha). Manufactured memories. Support groups for the loss of virtual children. It's all so good, and none of it feels wildly off base from where we are as a society right now.

Moksha, it turned out, wasn't bullshit. It'd just gone into hiding ever since the twenties when the U.S. cracked down on Nepali distribution. There had been nonstop busts at yoga studios and health spas in the U.S. An oxygen bar in Sedona had been found with makeshift crown plates hooked up to an old Sega Genesis console.

I really emphatically enjoyed this whole collection. The only thing keeping me from loving it unconditionally is the fact that none of the stories have a female main character and none of them pass the Bechdel test. To be fair, two of the stories have weird formats and don't actually have a character. One of the shorter stories never specifies the gender. But it was still disappointing. I get if you're somebody who writes about a certain thing. I do. But to both 1) not take up the challenge to write about somebody different from you, or 2) not see females as "just another kind of person" that should be relatively easy to write about because, again, they are just another kind of person, is a disappointment. If the plots of the stories weren't so intriguing, I probably would've begun to find the "wearied male trying to make his family/life work" character that reappeared in most of the stories boring.

It was Rocket Night at our daughter's elementary school, the night when parents, students, and administrators gather to place the least-liked child in a rocket and shoot him into the stars.

Truly, though, that is my only qualm with the book. I want everyone to read these stories, but my point above is something to be aware of and think about. This is one of the most consistently solid collections of short stories that I've read in a while. I've actually sat and read them aloud to people, they're so good. Dark, cleverly written, and brilliantly imagined. I laughed and I cried. Alexander Weinstein gets it. He fucking gets it. And, if you were wondering, my favorite story was "The Cartographers."

"I'm afraid all of your family is corrupted," the supervisor told me. "You'll just end up bringing the virus with you. It's an easy process to reboot. Simply hold down the power button on your console for twenty seconds and--"

"These are my children!" I yelled.

"If it's any consolation, they won't feel a thing; they're just data."

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? [Sept 19, 2016]

Monday, September 19, 2016

I really didn't mean to disappear for a week. I'm still getting used to my new schedule. And I've been spending a lot of time crafting. God, I'm so autumnal. I hadn't weaved before or embroidered, but I just started and WOW I love these crafts. What soothing ways to spend time while listening to audiobooks/watching reality television. And weaving's an amazing way to use up cheap, scratchy yarn you were trying to get rid of.

ALSO, I just got into the Litsy Android beta!! If you don't know, Litsy is a great app like Instagram and Goodreads combined. It's a huge amount of fun and the community's great. If you have an iPhone, you can get in on it right this moment. If you have an Android, you'll have to wait a bit longer, but it's coming soon! You can follow me at @OutlandishLit to see casual reading updates in real time (mostly).

Shout out to Jenna of JMill Wanders for visiting me this weekend and cheering me up, despite doing no amount of reading. You're a doll!! Book blogger friends are the best.

  • Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein (review this week)


I've been really digging The Traitor Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson on audiobook. Who would've thought I'd be so riveted by the politics and economics of a fantasy world?? This is such a brilliant book with so many interesting things going on in it. I'm so delighted to be listening to it, that I'm only playing the audio like 25% faster than it's read. Normally I'd double that shit.

I'm trying to devote time to this short story collection, Intimations, because I love Alexandra Kleeman so much. At the moment, though, I haven't hit a short story that I've really liked. So it's slow going. But I want to finish it this week! I'm really not that far into it, so here's hoping it gets better.

What are you reading this week?


It's Monday, What Are You Reading? [Sept. 12, 2016]

Monday, September 12, 2016

Who knew, routine might just be one of the best things that's ever happened to me. Even though I'm not quite in one yet, I have myself set up for it and I feel better about life in general already. And I suddenly have so much more time to read when I'm not working 12 hours a day three days in a row randomly! Oh, some bad news: Our car got totaled. The day after I finally scheduled a driving test for myself (yes, I only have a permit, it doesn't matter, let's not talk about it). So, admittedly, a lot of life/finances are really tough at the moment. But I'm working on not getting too down about it.

A couple days ago I finished two novellas in one day. I liked one of them quite a bit and I was ok with the other, but that kind of propelled me to keep reading. So later on I took myself on a foodless picnic in the park with a huge bag of books to peruse. It was so lovely! Except I also learned that I probably have allergies, because I had such a bad headache afterwards. GOD I'M SUCH A BUMMER. Ok, let me tell you about the book I fell in love with at the park below.

  • One Hundred Shadows by Hwang Jungeun
  • The Subsidiary by Matias Celedon


As expected, I'm still jumping around quite a bit in my reading. Though, yesterday, I landed on this mother fucking gem. I was really excited about it when I first got it at BEA, but as my reading has sucked in the past few months, I've told myself to temper my enthusiasm. But this is JUST AS GOOD AS I HOPED. Reading The Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein is basically like reading the show Black Mirror. Except, maybe even better?? I'm almost halfway through this collection of short stories and I can't put it down. This feels so so good.

What are you reading this week?



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