The Bend of the World


Jacob Bacharach - 2014
    He and his girlfriend float along in the same general direction, while his parents are acting funny, though his rich, hypochondriac grandmother is still good for admission to the better parties. He spends his days clocking into Global Solutions (a firm whose purpose remains unnervingly ambiguous) and his weekends listening to the half-imagined rants of his childhood best friend, Johnny. An addict and conspiracy theorist, Johnny believes Pittsburgh is a "nexus of intense magical convergence" and is playing host to a cabal of dubious politicians, evil corporate schemes, ancient occult rites, and otherwise inexplicable phenomena, such as the fact that people really do keep seeing UFOs hovering over the city.Against this strange background, Peter meets Mark and Helen, a slightly older couple, new to town, whose wealth and glamour never fully conceal the suggestion of something sinister, and with whom he becomes quickly infatuated. Mark is a corporate lawyer in the process of negotiating a buyout of Global Solutions, and initiates Peter into the real, mundane (maybe) conspiracies of corporations and careers, while Helen — a beautiful and once prominent artist — is both the echo and the promise of the sort of woman Peter always imagined, or was always told he ought to find for himself.As Peter climbs the corporate ladder, Johnny is pulled into the orbit of a mysterious local author, Winston Pringle, whose lunatic book of conspiracies seems to be coming true. As Johnny falls farther down the rabbit hole, the surreal begins to seep into the mundane, and the settled rhythm of Peter's routine is disrupted by a series of close encounters of third, fourth, and fifth kinds. By the time Peter sets out to save his friend from Pringle's evil machinations (and pharmacological interventions), his familiar life threatens to transform into that most terrifying possibility: a surprise.In The Bend of the World Philip K. Dick meets Michael Chabon, and Jacob Bacharach creates an appropriately hilarious, bizarre, and keenly observed portrait of life on the edge of thirty in the adolescent years of twenty-first-century America.

Novel 11, Book 18


Dag Solstad - 1992
    Eighteen years ago he left his wife and their two-year-old son for his mistress, who persuaded him to start afresh in a small, provincial town and to dabble in amateur dramatics. In time that relationship also faded, and after four years of living alone Bjørn contemplates an extraordinary course of action that will change his life for ever.He finds a fellow conspirator in Dr Schiøtz, who has a secret of his own and offers to help Bjørn carry his preposterous and dangerous plan through to its logical conclusion. However, the sudden reappearance of his son both fills Bjørn with new hope and complicates matters. The desire to gamble with his comfortable existence proves irresistible, however, taking him to Vilnius in Lithuania, where very soon he cannot tell whether he's tangled up in a game or reality.Novel 11, Book 18, for which Dag Solstad received the Norwegian Critics' Prize for Literature, is an uncompromising and concentrated existential novel that accommodates all of the author's fundamental themes.

The No Hellos Diet


Sam Pink - 2011
    Find yourself working at a department store where everyone must wear red and khaki clothing. Find yourself throwing out garbage for fifty cents more than minimum wage. Find yourself worried about getting your arm ripped off by the box compactor. Find yourself talking about licking assholes with your co-worker. Find yourself driving away into a video game sunset with an Amish man.The No Hellos Diet reminds you of the time you burnt down your future ex-girlfriend's trampoline. It reminds you of the couple of times you smoked crack. And the time you meditated on the most important question of all: Can a cat be killed with a single punch? Find yourself stunned by the prose of a modern novel-master as he follows the course of your life for an entire year.

Early Work


Andrew Martin - 2018
    B. Yeats once called the “foul rag and bone shop of the heart.” That’s where Peter Cunningham has been looking for inspiration for his novel—that is, when he isn’t teaching at the local women’s prison, walking his dog, getting high, and wondering whether it’s time to tie the knot with his college girlfriend, a medical student whose night shifts have become a standing rebuke to his own lack of direction. When Peter meets Leslie, a sexual adventurer taking a break from her fiancé, he gets a glimpse of what he wishes and imagines himself to be: a writer of talent and nerve. Her rag-and-bone shop may be as squalid as his own, but at least she knows her way around the shelves. Over the course of a Virginia summer, their charged, increasingly intimate friendship opens the door to difficult questions about love and literary ambition.With a keen irony reminiscent of Sam Lipsyte or Lorrie Moore, and a romantic streak as wide as Roberto Bolaño’s, Andrew Martin’s Early Work marks the debut of a writer as funny and attentive as any novelist of his generation.

Gold


Dan Rhodes - 2007
    It is also vintage Dan Rhodes, one of the most critically beloved novelists working today. Miyuki Woodward, lover of beer and microwaveable food, has been taking a two-week vacation—away from her companion—to the same seaside town in Wales for the last eight years. She is made to feel at home at the salty seaside pub, where Short Mr. Hughes, Tall Mr. Hughes, and Mr. Puw are happy to add her to their trivia-contest team. This year, following an impulsive artistic act involving gold spray paint, Miyuki will take part in the most turbulent events the village has seen since Tall Mr. Hughes returned from the pub toilet without remembering to button up. Gold is a bittersweet, idiosyncratic, funny affirmation of life and a touchingly satisfying story rich in pathos, insight, and asides from the best-selling author of Timoleon Vieta Come Home and Anthropology.

Still Holding


Bruce Wagner - 2003
     In his most ambitious book to date, Still Holding, Wagner immerses readers in post-September 11 Hollywood, revealing as much rabid ambition, rampant narcissism, and unchecked mental illness as ever. He infiltrates the gilded life of a superstar actor/sex symbol/practicing Buddhist, the compromised world of a young actress whose big break comes when she's hired to play a corpse on Six Feet Under, and the strange parallel universe of look-alikes -- an entire industry in which struggling actors are hired out for parties and conventions to play their famous counterparts. Alternately hilarious and heartfelt, ferocious and empathetic, Still Holding is Bruce Wagner's most expertly calibrated work.

Mr Golightly's Holiday


Salley Vickers - 2003
    Golightly wrote a work of dramatic fiction that grew to be an astonishing international bestseller. But his reputation is on the decline and he finds himself badly out of touch with the modern world. He decides to take a holiday and comes to the historic village of Great Calne, hoping to use the opportunity to bring his great work up to date. But he soon finds that events take over his plans and that the themes he has written on are being strangely replicated in the lives of the villagers around him. As he comes to know his neighbors better, Mr. Golightly begins to examine his attitude toward love and to ponder the terrible catastrophe of his only son's death -- so, too, we begin to learn the true and extraordinary identity of Mr. Golightly.

A Short History of a Small Place


T.R. Pearson - 1985
    Although T. R. Pearson's Neely, North Carolina, doesn't appear on any map of the state, it has already earned a secure place on the literary landscape of the South. In this introduction to Neely, the young narrator, Louis Benfield, recounts the tragic last days of Miss Myra Angelique Pettigrew, a local spinster and former town belle who, after years of total seclusion, returns flamboyantly to public view-with her pet monkey, Mr. Britches. Here is a teeming human comedy inhabited by some of the most eccentric and endearing characters ever encountered in literature.

Then We Came to the End


Joshua Ferris - 2007
    The characters in Then We Came To The End cope with a business downturn in the time-honored way: through gossip, secret romance, elaborate pranks, and increasingly frequent coffee breaks. By day they compete for the best office furniture left behind and try to make sense of the mysterious pro-bono ad campaign that is their only remaining "work."

The Long Dry


Cynan Jones - 2006
    Gareth notices that one of the calving cows is missing and sets off to find her before the sun gets too strong. What follows is a search through memory and anxiety about losing what he has as Gareth walks the land looking for the missing cow. The day unfolds, and the cow's behavior emerges as a metaphor for the relationship between Gareth and his wife Kate as they stumble on desperately in their changing care for each other. Only the reader is aware of the tragedy that awaits the family a few days down the line, throwing the story into shadow with a terrible poignancy.

Tropic Of Ruislip


Leslie Thomas - 1997
    TROPIC OF RUISLIP is a sage for life on a modern executive housing estate, seething with the fears, snobbereis, frustrations and lusts of well-heeled young couples trundling uneasily towards middle age.

An Evening of Long Goodbyes


Paul Murray - 2003
    At twenty-four, Charles aims to resurrect the lost lifestyle of the aristocratic country gentleman. But Charles’s cozy existence is about to face a serious shake-up. With the family fortune teetering in the balance, Charles must do something he swore he would never do: get a job. Booted into the mean streets of Dublin, he is as unprepared for real life. And it turns out that real life is a tad unprepared for Charles, as well.

The Hills at Home: A Novel


Nancy Clark - 2003
    At least not in the numbers that descend upon her genteely dilapidated New England ancestral home in the summer of ’89. Brother Harvey arrives first, thrice-widowed and eager for company; then perennially self-dramatizing niece Ginger and her teenaged daughter Betsy; then Alden, just laid-off from Wall Street, with his wife Becky, and their rowdy brood of four . . . As summer fades into fall, it becomes clear that no one intends to leave. But just as Lily’s industrious hospitality gives way to a somewhat strained domestic routine, the Hill clan must face new challenges together. Brimming with wit and a compendium of Yankee curiosities, The Hills at Home is an irresistible modern take on an old-fashioned comedy of manners.

Quicksand


Steve Toltz - 2015
    Aldo, his best friend and muse, is a haplessly criminal entrepreneur with an uncanny knack for disaster. As Aldo's luck worsens, Liam is inspired to base his next book on his best friend's exponential misfortunes and hopeless quest to win back his one great love: his ex-wife, Stella. What begins as an attempt to make sense of Aldo's mishaps spirals into a profound story of faith and friendship.With the same originality and buoyancy that catapulted his first novel, A Fraction of the Whole, onto prize lists around the world—including shortlists for the Man Booker Prize and the Guardian First Book Award—Steve Toltz has created a rousing, hysterically funny but unapologetically dark satire about fate, faith, friendship, and the artist's obligation to his muse. Sharp, witty, kinetic, and utterly engrossing, Quicksand is a subversive portrait of twenty-first-century society in all its hypocrisy and absurdity.

Bigfoot Dreams


Francine Prose - 1986
    At work, she conjures up stories about UFO sightings, miracle cures in garden vegetables, evidence of life after death, and the ever-popular Bigfoot. At home, she contends with a precocious daughter, and errant husband, and her own fantasies. It all works well enough it she doesn't think too deeply. But then one day Vera discovers that one of the stories she's invented has turned out to be true in ways she never could have dreamed...