The Vulnerables Sigrid Nunez, The Librarianist Patrick DeWitt Open Throat Henry Hoke

3 books to read this month: The Vulnerables, The Librarianist, Open Throat

Light in the darkness of lockdown, Benjamin Button meets Revolutionary Road and the story of a queer mountain lion.

More about books you should read, and the authors who wrote them, that were recently featured on the Weird Era podcast, by co-hosts Sruti Islam & Alex Nierenhausen.

The Vulnerables by Sigrid Nunez

Queen Nunez does it again. We all knew the pandemic novel was coming for us, pretty much precisely when the pandemic started, and most of us were actually concerned about it — even before its arrival. I was a bookseller on the floor of an indie bookstore, inundated with clients asking me precisely for distractions, and nothing to do with isolations, forced curfews or debates about any kind of vaccine. To them, I wish I could have, and still will, recommend this novel. Nunez paints a portrait of a woman navigating the pandemic, physically and emotionally distanced from loved ones, and, in turn, struck into emotionally and physically invasive spaces with strangers (an unwanted roommate, as well as a very much loved parakeet). If you’re still looking for the silver lining of that really bad time, trust Nunez, who always manages to fill a novel with wisdom, and the shimmering glimpses of light hidden behind dark shadows. (SI)

The Librarianist by Patrick DeWitt

Benjamin Button meets Revolutionary Road as Patrick DeWitt explores a life lived, and the aftermath that is aging. DeWitt timelapses through the novel, first introducing readers to Bob Comet at the tail end of his life, then taking it back to the meaty, broken-hearted middle and reverting yet again to the childhood that comes to shape us all. The Librarianist is a tender exploration of how our lives become bookended by unexpected occurrences. It shows us how we can only really know what happened once it’s happened — a distant thing in the past. To live in something is entirely another matter. I, famously, think all books have an agenda, but this story holds a level of purity that almost feels sans agenda. Like how novels used to be. Texts told, with no tacit  contemporary commentary, but instead written for the very sake of telling a story. (SI)

Open Throat by Henry Hoke

Henry Hoke’s debut, Open Throat, is singular. Our narrator is a queer mountain lion, their thoughts lush with language and a desire to express it. They roam the hiking trails below the Hollywood sign in L.A., surviving on scraps, but when a fire engulfs the area, the mountain lion is forced to flee. Turns out, finding a safe space as a large cat in the L.A. suburbs is easier said than done. It’s short – at 176 pages, you can finish it in an hour or two. But will it be one of the most interesting reading experiences you’ve ever had? Quite possibly. (AN)

The Weird Era podcast is available via Apple and Spotify.

This article was originally published in the Dec. 2023 issue of Cult MTL.

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