This novel, about the slow disintegration of a marriage, is beautifully and delicately handled. The characters are unforgettable — glamorous and deeply flawed. I always feel I am learning how to write when I read Salter. His prose is masterful.
There is something intimate about Anaïs Nin’s writing that pulls me in. I love this story about a woman on a path of sexual (and self-) exploration. I had never heard of moon-bathing until I read this novel. Now I do it every month.
A woman stops eating meat in an attempt to become more vegetal. It sounded simple enough, but this book triggered me so intensely that I almost didn’t like it. The exploration of violence, shame, and escapism completely destabilized me. I returned to it later because I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Complex and deeply subversive.
I had to read the first sentence of this novel three times to try and unpack what was going on. And from there, it just rose in intensity. I experience something visceral when I read Marías. He clearly understands how language moves through the body.
I had never heard of Fleur Jaeggy until this year, and now I can’t get enough of her. This book is about 100 pages long and as polished as a diamond. I read it in one sitting and was breathless by the end. A young girl remembers a cruise she took with her now-deceased father, and the narrative switches between third and first person to create an uncanny, dissociative effect.
I read Manto’s short stories as an art-history student, when I was thinking about violence in art inspired by Partition. The story of Toba Tek Singh always sticks out in my mind, about a man who dies on that narrow stretch of land between the two nations. I have since returned to his stories and am always struck by the grim humor that peeks through.
I know everyone loves The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, but Loitering With Intent is my favorite Muriel Spark novel. Her protagonist, Fleur Talbot, is the kind of writer I would love to be: courageous and inventive. In this book, Spark is at her playful best, toying with the idea that life imitates art, and the results are hilarious.
A friend of mine introduced me to Deborah Levy while we were doing a fellowship in the U.K. The novel has a surreal quality, like looking through the surface of water. In Levy’s deft hands, anxiety spreads through the pages of the novel, and everyone is susceptible. Characters that once seemed intact begin to unravel.
This book has probably influenced me more than any other work of fiction that I have read. I came to it by accident, on my aunt’s bookshelf, and I could see that even though the book was old, it had never been opened. Márquez led me to my own preoccupation with memory, which has informed almost all of my creative writing so far.
I had already read and loved Howards End, and when I finally came to Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, it felt like a revelation. How could a book be at once comfortingly familiar and completely new? This meditation on race, class, and family is something I return to again and again.
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