Bad Things Happen In Threes

Well, I don't know how things are going in your part of the world, but the news arriving in my inbox has been pretty terrible this week. Police brutality, looting, airstrikes, civil rights losses, celebrity suicide... There seems to be no end to the misery the past seven days have inflicted on the community. So what better way to deal with it than by reporting on three books I just wrapped up that are all morose, depressing, and hopeless? In unrelated news, could someone please drop a barrel full of Paxil on my front porch?


One of those recent books is Claire Kendal's 2014 novel, The Book of You. The book is written in two separate styles. In the third-person, Clarissa goes about her days, indulging her hobby of sewing and clothing construction, and serving on a jury. In the first-person, Clarissa keeps a journal about the increasing danger she faces from a stalker. She attempts to follow all the rules about dissuading this man she met and slept with once, but his behavior escalates in terrifying ways. He always stops just short of hurting her, and Kendal does a good job of portraying the uselessness of a system where nobody will come to your aid unless something horrific has already befallen you. Clarissa's life is complicated further by the case she's sitting on revolving around a similar victim being torn to shreds in the courtroom and her growing attraction to a fellow juror. This book does not shy away from the intensely uncomfortable, and does not wrap everything up in a nice, pat ending. In a way, I find that very refreshing, though it doesn't entirely stick the landing. There are a couple of sections that came off as a bit contrived, but overall, this book was unsettling in all the right ways.


Next up was Susan Rieger's 2014 epistolary book, The Divorce Papers. Told entirely in letters, emails, memos, and notes, this novel follows a brief period in the life of Sophie Diehl, a criminal defense attorney who finds herself roped into her first divorce case. She soon finds herself at sea, not only in the legal technicalities, explosive emotions, and dirty tricks that go into a divorce proceeding, but in her own office politics and personal life. The language in the legal memos that the book comprises can get esoteric, but I liked that; it made the book feel more naturalistic. If anything, the most unbelievable thing about this novel is how cleanly the case is wrapped up. I can't entirely tell if we're supposed to like the narrator or not. She's often immature and needy, and if I knew her in real life, I get the feeling I'd be rolling my eyes a lot. But in a way, that makes her naivete about the work expected of her in a divorce case more understandable. It was a good read, and I wound up enjoying it quite a bit, so consider this an official recommend from your resident A.C.O.D.


I've been meaning to get to Drew Magary's 2011 book The Postmortal for a while now, and finally got around to it. I was already familiar with Magary, thanks to his posts on Deadspin (aka "The Only Place That Can Make Sports Interesting To Me"), and figured I'd like his tone-of-voice translated into fiction. And I was right! The Postmortal imagines a world where the cure for aging has been discovered, and after some initial waffling about whether it's a good idea or not, is made publicly available. People can still die due to sickness or external factors (accidents, murder, etc.), but whatever age you get the treatment - there you will stay forever. Naturally, this leads to all sorts of consequences, both foreseen and unforeseen. The book is told in first person via a journal discovered in the aftermath of some undescribed catastrophe, and spins a great what-if story about how people would act if they never got older. If I have a big issue, it's the same issue I have with a lot of books (and TV shows and songs, for that matter). It doesn't quite know how to end. Ironic, isn't it? It's still a very worthy read, though. People are raised to fear and fight death, but it's easy to see how things would get out of hand in a hurry if the Grim Reaper didn't do his job. So there's a pretty little bow to wrap up this week of crap: "Hooray for Death!"

The Book of You: B
The Divorce Papers: B+
The Postmortal: B


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