August is our birthday month!
It feels good to have completed a full two years of publication. Now we’re all scratching our heads and going, “Where did the time go?” It’s been a wild (sometimes circuitous) path that has gotten us here and we’re incredibly grateful.
We are celebrating the occasion by bringing you more great content. Yay! This includes audio stories, micro fiction, and our second anthology. Double yay!
Coming next is a super-secret-new podcast we’ve been working on. Make sure that you sign up to our newsletter so that you don’t miss a thing.
Here’s to another great year!
Every August I think about the opening lines of Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt.
The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color.
I first read those words when I was about eleven, and they have stuck with me ever since. It’s such a perfect description and really captures the way that I feel about the peak of summer. That’s the power of a good book.
Bunny by Mona Awad
Bunny blew my mind. Samantha is a scholarship student at a prestigious MFA. Her cohorts are a clique of rich girls who call each other bunny. As Samantha gets pulls into the bunnies’ world, the lines between reality and creation become blurred. Awad has written a highly inventive fusion of clique drama, horror, and satire.
Bangkok Wakes to Rain by Pitchaya Sudbanthad
This book was nothing if not ambitious. The novel spans years, the globe, and hip-scotches across characters, while staying focused on a specific property in Bangkok and its many inhabitants. At times it felt a bit overstuffed and disjointed for me, but there was some seriously beautiful moments. As with any novel that takes on so many “main” characters, I felt a real connection with some threads and none with others.
The Black Tides of Heaven by JY Yang
Time to come clean. When I list Black Tides, I actually mean I read Yang’s whole goddamn series in about four days. There was some serious hype about this series and it did not disappoint. There was everything that I could hope for in a book — complex characters, diversity, magic, political intrigue, bad ass fight scenes, mythical beasts, and more.
My only complaint is that it’s too short. It’s a novella and I would have read a Harry Potter sized series of this. Also — best cover art ever!
This month, I’ve spent the majority of my time in nonfiction land, reading a bunch of different things from stories about Maine to learning how octopus intelligence works. It’s a mixed bag, as always, but that’s just the way I like it.
Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith
Look, I love octopuses (yes, that is the correct way of saying it, according to experts — if you wanna get really technical, you can say octopodes. But don’t). I love all of the stories of them escaping their enclosures, how they can learn to open jars, and how they are just so other-worldly. So, when I saw this book, which explores all of those things, I got really excited.
At first glance, the book seems to be about only octopuses, but it’s not. It actually attempts to explain much more about consciousness, what it means to have intelligence, and — most importantly — the evolutionary mechanisms at work behind both. If that sort of thing is your cup of tea, I highly recommend checking this book out.
Vacationland: True Stories from Painful Beaches by John Hodgman
I’ve known about John Hodgman since his days on the Daily Show and the PC Vs. Mac commercials, but I hadn’t read any of his books until now — and now I want want to read more. Vacationland features stories predominantly about Hodgman’s life in Maine where he spends a great deal of his time. He goes through what it means to grow up, what it’s like to experience loss, what it means to be a parent, and how his life has unfolded.
One of the most interesting parts of the book to me was how he talks about what it’s like to be an only child and a solitary one at that. I, if you didn’t know, am also an only child, which is something that I typically never think about until someone uses it as an excuse for me not wanting to share or something like that (this happens fairly often as if people with siblings somehow come out more well adjusted because they had to compete for parental attention — because that definitely is healthy and should be experienced by all). Hodgman hits the nail on the head about this subject and made me think a lot about myself and how I grew up and am still growing up. It’s a quick, funny, and sometimes deeply sad book, but hey, that’s life.
Human Acts by Han Kang
Okay, so I’m not done reading this one yet so I don’t have nearly as much to say. However, I know that I absolutely loved The Vegetarian, which was also by Kang. This novel, Human Acts, takes place after a violent uprising in South Korea and, just like The Vegetarian, it’s split between multiple perspectives, which I love. I’ve expected this novel to be an unsettling whirlwind of things that will make me question everything. As I said, I’m not far into the novel yet, so I cannot recommend it, but I do highly recommend The Vegetarian — it’s a novel you can read in one sitting that will keep you awake for days.
August is especially significant, not just because of our birthday at The Arcanist, but because I have an opportunity to take stock of how well I’ve adhered to the personal benchmarks I’ve set for myself (reading and writing more, refusing to pass up on fun, exercising more, etc.). I’m pleased to say I’ve kept on schedule, but, as with anything, there’s always room to improve. In addition to the incoming submissions, here are a few of my favorites from the hottest month in the ‘burgh.
How to Change Your Mind by Michael Pollan
My taste in nonfiction was radically expanded at the end of last spring. No, I didn’t drop acid. But, I did listen to Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, In Defense of Food) talk about his own experiences with psychotropics, and I received a copy of How to Change Your Mind, wherein Pollan explores the rich, very much empirical history of the health benefits of psychedelic drugs. Not only is Pollan a rigorous scholar (the bibliography of works cited is practically an inch thick), but he’s refreshingly free of the delirious zeal that usually accompanies psychedelic discussion. Pollan’s all business, and, like any good student, he shows his work.
Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
A follow up to Gaiman’s seminal American Gods, Anansi Boys deals with (surprise!) the sons of Anansi, spider god and trickster deity. When Charles “Fat Charlie” Nancy loses his father, two incredible truths are laid upon him. First, he has a brother whom he doesn’t remember, known only as Spider, and, second, he is the son of Anansi, ancient god to whom all stories belong. The magic and lyricism of Gaiman, coupled with Pratchett-like humor and the scope of mythology, all wrapped up in sibling rivalry and familial resentment, Anansi Boys will stick with you like spider’s silk.
MW by Osamu Tezuka
Easily the least “Tezuka” of his works, MW takes on religion, war, geopolitical corruption, homosexuality in a restrictive, oppressive society, and the nature of revenge. (Yeah, all of that from the same guy who gave us Astro Boy.) Iconic artwork, thrilling action, and intrigue that rivals most contemporary thrillers, Tezuka’s MW has all of the hints of the speculative and fantastical, but remains firmly rooted in a very real, all-too-plausible world, leaving readers all the more terrified.
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