by Juhi Singhal Karan
The “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” has arrived and brought with it a rich bounty of stories in all shapes and sizes. Here’s five stories for you to lose yourself in as you settle down with your favourite pumpkin treat!
Kim Thúy’s Mãn
The titular heroine of Mãn, “an orphan . . . half-white,” is sent from Vietnam to Montreal in an arranged marriage to an older man who promises a happily ever after for the heroine whose name means “fulfillment.” Terry Hong described Kim Thúy’s first novel, Ru, as “unfold[ing] like ethereal poetry . . . [an] intricate, mesmerizing narrative,” here on Bloom. It’s not surprising then to find Thúy’s Mãn, available in its English translation this fall, as having “the sparseness of an old story by the Brothers Grimm, in which entire wars and lives can be summed in a couple of lines and yet a brief moment can be made to linger.”
Howard Jacobson’s J
Howard Jacobson’s J “may well come to be seen as the dystopian British novel of its times,” as John Burnside put it in The Guardian. One of the six books shortlisted for the 2014 Man Booker Prize, the book is characterized by an “absence of Jacobson’s trademark satirical tone.” The story is set in the future—in a world that refers to the catastrophe that it has presumably undergone as “the thing that happened, if it happened.” In Jacobson’s words, “It was not possible for me to have written this in my normal ironic, argumentative voice because these are the very qualities that are not available in that world I am describing.”
Lynn Lurie’s Quick Kills
Lynn Lurie’s second novel, Quick Kills, is in the words of The Millions “an unsettling rumination on art, pornography and sexual violence.” As an author, Lurie has “an interest in understanding . . . [W]hat compels us to do the worst?” In her own words, “[T]he interest is driven by a desire to change this behavior. The best way I know how to do this is to tell you about it.” For Lurie, “[B]eing a writer is a mandate . . . not a choice,” with writing being a journey where “find[ing] a reader is the final stage.” She advises budding authors “[to] do what you are compelled to do in life and do it at the highest level. If you are lucky enough to know what that is then that is half the war.”
Kim Zupan’s The Ploughmen
Kim Zupan worked as a carpenter for 25 years before becoming a published author this fall at the age of 61. The Ploughmen, an exploration of “the line between good and evil in a manner that’s as honest as it is unsettling,” is according to NPR “a remarkable novel, beautifully executed and dark as pitch.” The relationship between a young sheriff’s deputy in central Montana and the 77 year old “hardened killer named John Gload [who] is being held [there] during his trial,” is “[S]pare and emotionally devastating,” and “cannot be recommended highly enough,” by Library Journal.
Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword
Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Sword may be “more directly political” and “less ambitious in structure” than its predecessor but in the words of Publisher’s Weekly it remains as “powerful” and “every bit as incisive,” as Ancillary Justice. Joe Schuster talked about Ancillary Justice “mak[ing] us see our own world in a new way,” here on Bloom, and Ancillary Sword continues in the same vein. It prods further at the “complicated world” of “an empire [that] presses worlds through a single ‘civilizing’ mold” where “the inability to either reach a far enough remove to eliminate injustice, or get close enough to understand everyone’s meanings” becomes more pronounced.”