If reading the news these days sends you into apoplectic fits of involuntary cursing, you might be interested in linguist John McWhorter’s new book “Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter: Then, Now, and Forever.” The book asks: Where did our most popular swear words come from? How did they evolve? And how are we using them now?
In Haruki Murakami’s new story collection, “First Person Singular,” one of his fictive everymen observes: “the world can turn upside down, depending on the way we look at it. The way a ray of sunshine falls on something can change shadow to light, or light to shadow. A positive becomes a negative, a negative a positive.” The passage encapsulates the deceptively simple brand of surrealism that has endeared Murakami’s work to millions of readers around the globe. “First Person Singular” will satisfy his fans and serve as a fine introduction to neophytes, echoing many of the uncanny scenarios of his earlier work.
Michael Lowenthal’s fifth book and first story collection, Sex with Strangers (University of Wisconsin Press) is a book of clever misdirections. His characters often reveal themselves to be far different than who they think they are. From cruise-boat priests to aid workers to single mothers, Lowenthal’s characters meditate on what it means to be fulfilled when life throws one curveball after another. If there’s a common thread that runs through the eight stories in Sex with Strangers besides Lowenthal’s keenly observant, precise prose, it’s that life never goes according to plan.
Lowenthal was my mentor for a semester at Lesley University’s MFA in Creative Writing Program, where he continues to teach. We caught up via email to talk about his new book and discussed a variety of topics including global inequality, the nature of disappointment, and the evolution of the gay rights movement over the past several decades.
Read the rest of the interview at the Los Angeles Review of Books.
After COVID-19 hit last year, San Francisco author and journalist Chris Colin and his wife upgraded their internet connection to fiber to accommodate their family’s increased reliance on the digital world. Ironically, Colin had also just completed a humor book that imagines what would happen if the internet went out forever.
“Off: The Day the Internet Died,” written by Colin and illustrated by Brooklyn-based visual artist Rinee Shah, is a funny picture book about a serious topic: What have we lost from our pervasive and likely permanent reliance on the web?
Read the rest of the interview at the San Francisco Chronicle.
“Few literary heroes are more ubiquitous and enduring to multiple generations of Asians around the world than Monkey of the 16th century Chinese novel Journey to the West, by Wu Cheng’en.
Considered one of the Four Classic Novels of Chinese literature, the sprawling, picaresque fable has been adapted into countless films, TV shows, stage plays and children’s books in Asia. Monkey King: Journey to the West, a new translation from Penguin Classics, serves as a solid primer for Western neophytes.”
Read the rest of the review at the San Francisco Chronicle.