Thunderstruck by Elizabeth McCracken

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The soul is liquid, and slow to evaporate.  The body’s a bucket and liable to slosh.

A 2014 National Book Award finalist, Thunderstruck has certainly earned its place among competing titles.  Comprised of 9 short stories, Elizabeth McCracken’s collection is nothing short of haunting – and I’m not just saying that because we’re getting close to Halloween.  These unforgettable tales are mesmerizing and devastating as McCracken explores aspects of love, grief, family, death, companionship and loneliness.

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Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

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You can hide memories, but you can’t erase the history that produced them

Haruki Murakami’s thirteenth novel, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage follows a mid-30s engineer in Tokyo who reluctantly returns to a painful and traumatic memory, and, with the help of his girlfriend Sara, decides to pursue the truth behind his suffering.

As a teenager in the 90s, Tsukuru Tazaki developed a very close group of four friends – two men and two women – each with last names that represent a color, with the exception of Tsukuru, whose Japanese name does not indicate any particular color.  Thus, Tsukuru developed his nickname of “colorless.”  Of course the nickname is meant to be harmless enough, but Tsukuru deeply internalizes this idea of himself as colorless, and it greatly affects his self-perception as an adult.  Murakami writes:

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Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld

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I always worried someone would notice me, and then when no one did, I felt lonely

It’s been nearly ten years since Prep was published, but that doesn’t mean it’s lost any relevance.  While Prep is a coming-of-age tale at heart, it’s also a deeply affecting story that may remind readers (especially female readers) of the personal triumphs and tragedies of adolescence.

The novel follows teen girl Lee Fiora, who attends the elite Ault School – a fictional Ivy League prep school in Massachusetts.  While Ault is known for producing some of the brightest and most promising students in the nation, the school is also known for its insulated and elite reputation, as well as astronomical tuition fees.

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A Conversation with Zachary Karabashliev

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Published by Open Letter Books, Bulgarian author Zachary Karabashliev’s debut novel 18% Gray was our Critical Era book club selection back in April.  We loved this at times horrific, yet often quite hilarious tale of one man’s journey across the United States, stating in our review that “[...] the beauty of this particular tale lies in the author’s supreme skill at weaving together autobiographical nuggets with invented exaggerations and half-truths in order to create a spellbinding, slightly skewed, meta-fictional version of reality where every experience, no matter how minor, carries heightened significance, and the absurd becomes the expected norm.”

We finally had a chance to catch up with Mr. Karabashliev and what follows below is a mostly spoiler-free discussion about photography, translation, and adaptation.

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