How 'Bout a Reading List?

“Be warned,” Ellen Litman writes in Ha’aretz. “The Book of Dahlia is not the kind of book in which a girl gets an incurable brain tumor and learns an important lesson….[T]he cancer fails to reform her. She remains her nihilistic, wisecracking self – an antihero of sorts – unwilling to fight for her life the way everyone expects her to.” Though slightly less enamored, the LA Times admires author Elisa Albert’s “relish for poking fun and puncturing stereotypes.” Nextbook also has a podcast with Albert.

At Radar, Emily Gould talks to Sloane Crosley about Crosley’s forthcoming book of personal essays, I was Told There’d Be Cake. “Reading the book is like having an incredibly engaging conversation with a charming quirky girl,” Gould writes. “But there’s a problem: The blurbs are really good….the kind of praise that makes backlashes begin months before publication, especially when the author in question knows everyone in publishing and is young, attractive, and famously nice.”

Speaking of such backlashes, you can expect one when Rivka Galchen’s novel Atmospheric Disturbances comes out in June. (I thought the book was pretty great.) You can read an excerpt here. And here’s a lovely essay Galchen wrote for the NY Times last summer.

In Rachel Pastan’s novel Lady of the Snakes, protagonist Jane Levitsky tries to balance a tenure-track position (and her in-depth research into the fictional Russian novel from which the book takes its name), with being a wife and mother. It may be telling that the Washington Post finds that “Nineteenth-century Russia doesn’t hold a candle to the contemporary story of this two-career marriage full of dirty dishes, student papers and a screaming baby.” But “Pastan’s writing is fluid and frank, and her characters are luminescent. Many women will recognize this as a realistic portrayal of the rewards and the pitfalls of trying to have it all.” The Washington Jewish Week explores the Jewish side of the book and its author.

In the Forward, Eli Rosenblatt interviews Leela Corman about her forthcoming graphic novel, Unterzakhn. Corman explains, “I think that if you set out trying to make people confront something, the work will be at very best one-dimensional and probably intolerable.”

Rachel Shukert, who wrote the Heeb article about Jews and blowjobs that I mentioned awhile ago, has a book of autobiographical essays coming out at the end of April, called Have You No Shame? And Other Regrettable Stories. It is awesome. From her account of being a precocious Holocaust-obsessed kid, to a piece about watching helplessly as her beloved grandmother dies, Shukert’s stories are almost bizarrely relatable. She captures the experiences of Jewish adolescence (youth group, heritage tours, Bat Mitzvahs and so on) with amazing accuracy. Really: I laughed out loud through most of it, until the final essay actually made me cry.

— Eryn Loeb