“On Thursday, March 14, 2019, the Viking Sky cruise ship embarked from Bergen, Norway with the intention of stopping by several Norwegian towns over the next 12 days on the way to London. By late Friday, however, the ship had sailed into a massive bomb cyclone that flooded parts of the ship with 60-foot waves and knocked out the ship’s engines, sending it adrift toward the rocky Norwegian coast.
Travel writer Chaney Kwak was on this cruise on assignment. As the ship’s 1,400 passengers awaited rescue by helicopter, Kwak took notes on this disaster in the making, while contemplating the meaning of other storms in his personal life, which included a mother battling cancer and a two-decades-long romantic relationship also heading for the rocks.“
Read the rest at Los Angeles Review of Books.
“The unnamed heroine of Intimacies, Katie Kitamura’s fascinating and mysterious new novel, observes that “none of us are able to see the world we are living in — the world, occupying as it does the contradiction between its banality … and its extremity.” She’s a new interpreter at The Hague, responsible for the banal function of translating legal proceedings for extremely evil defendants: genocidal former heads of state.”
Read the rest at NPR.
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?
Read the rest of the review at the San Francisco Chronicle.
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.
Read the rest of the review at Washington Post Book World.
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.