West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan


When most readers think of F. Scott Fitzgerald, they conjure up Gatsby-esque images of fame, fortune, and prohibition speakeasies – where the booze, smoke and creative ideas swirled.  The fact that we romanticize the Jazz Age comes as no surprise, but I believe a lot of readers also tend to romanticize the Fitzgeralds personally, as if they spent their entire lives dancing and drinking in the presence of other brilliant and tortured minds.  Which, of course, they did for some time.  But when money runs short and addictions prevail, sometimes you do what you have to do.  For F. Scott Fitzgerald, that meant accepting a desk job as a Hollywood screenwriter so he could support his ailing wife and teenage daughter.

Continue Reading

A Conversation With Josh Malerman


Credit: Josh Malerman

In his debut novel, Josh Malerman examines an apocalyptic world in which humans are terrorized by unseen forces.  These “monsters” are completely invisible to the naked eye, but if your gaze happens to fall upon one, the consequences include possession, violence, and eventually, suicide.  To survive, the characters wear blindfolds to protect their vision, but the full capabilities of the unseen creatures are still a mystery, so the world of Bird Box is one of chaos, fear, paranoia, and desperation.  If horror is your preferred genre, you NEED to read Bird Box.

As a debut novelist and singer/songwriter/musician for the band The High Strung, Josh Malerman has a lot of creative energy, and luckily we were able to briefly chat with him about his double career in music and literature.  What follows is a conversation about creativity, fear, inspiration, and the psychological motivations behind his spectacular novel:

Continue Reading

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin


The words you can’t find, you borrow

A.J. Fikry is a lonely bookstore owner with a deep appreciation for certain literature and a “purcupine heart.”  He calls himself old and decrepit, but he’s really just a quirky middle-aged man who forgot how to take care of himself.  Island Books used to be a hub of activity in its small town – filled with children, laughter, and happy customers.  But since his wife died, A.J. hasn’t cared for the bookstore the way he used to.  Island Books is still open and fully functional, but its reputation has soured since A.J. became a widower, shutting out the world and his heart.

But when a mysterious woman abandons her child in the store the same week his prized (and highly valuable) Edgar Allen Poe book is stolen, A.J. must abruptly awaken from his haze of grief, self-pity, and depression in order to save a life.  But A.J. needs saving more than anyone, so toddler Maya is just the breath of fresh air that he needs.

Continue Reading

The First Bad Man by Miranda July


I keep getting born to the wrong people

Miranda July has always been unapologetic in her exploration of the human spirit and psyche.  Her characters are both tender and urgent in their search for truth, importance, and intimacy within one another, yet the scenery is always slightly askew.  Maybe we’re looking into the story through a macro lens, or maybe it’s some sort of utopia that we don’t recognize.  Either way, there is something inherently unique about Miranda July, and her work has resonated with the literary and film communities for over a decade.

Continue Reading

Shirley by Susan Scarf Merrell


Left or right’s no matter…just the fact of turning

As someone who’s mildly obsessed with the work of Shirley Jackson, I was a bit skeptical when I found out about this novel.  Told from the perspective of a house guest of Jackson and her husband Stanley Hyman, the novel takes place in 1964 and imagines what life might have been like inside the Hyman household.  But when I finished the first chapter, I suspected that this biographical novelization would be a sensitive and highly-charged delicacy for those who deeply savor Jackson’s literature.  And it is.

Continue Reading