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Books: Margaret Atwood, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Dan Chaon and the Death Sentences Reading Club

Could Margaret Atwood actually be considering a sequel to "The Handmaid's Tale"? We asked her about that, her graphic novel series "Angel Catbird" and more. Read on.

THE BIG STORY

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"Women are human beings," says Margaret Atwood. "If you're going to pretend that they're some angelic species at heart, then you are exempting them from being human. You're setting the bar impossibly high; everyone has to behave well all the time. In what world do men have to behave well all the time?" She's referring to "Angel Catbird," a world of human-animal hybrids in which two females vie for the affection of a sexy scientist, but of course it's much more. Atwood talks to Margaret Wappler about her graphic novel, the new timeliness of "The Handmaid's Tale," its upcoming Hulu adaptation and more.

Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood (Liam Sharp)

A KIND OF REFUGE

Viet Thanh Nguyen "has encircled the American literary consciousness," writes Karen Long, first with his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel "The Sympathizer," then with his cultural history "Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War" (a National Book Award finalist), and now with his short-story collection, "The Refugees." Nguyen "is drawn to dualities," Long writes in our review. "The collection casts a formidable spell, especially at this political moment when refugees are both a lightning rod and an abstraction."

Author Viet Thanh Nguyen, 2016 Pulitzer Prize winner for "The Sympathizer,"speaks during the Pulitzer Centennial Celebration at the Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles on May 19, 2016.
Author Viet Thanh Nguyen, 2016 Pulitzer Prize winner for "The Sympathizer,"speaks during the Pulitzer Centennial Celebration at the Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles on May 19, 2016. (Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

WOMEN OF A CERTAIN AGE

"Menopause is a mind and body shift as monumental and universal as puberty, yet far less often discussed, especially in public," writes Kate Tuttle of "The Middlepause: On Life After Youth" by Marina Benjamin. Benjamin, a veteran British memoirist, had a hysterectomy at 49 and experienced the typically gradual menopausal shift all at once, giving her a unique — and literary — perspective. Read our review.

Marina Benjamin and her book "The Middlepause: On Life After Youth."
Marina Benjamin and her book "The Middlepause: On Life After Youth." (Soren Levy-Sands / Catapult)

BESTSELLERS

Thirty years after his death, James Baldwin is having a moment. Not one but two of his books are on our paperback nonfiction bestseller list this week: "I Am Not Your Negro" at No. 2 and "The Fire Next Time" at No. 3.

The former is the companion book to the film "I Am Not Your Negro" directed by Raoul Peck, now in theaters. Peck drew the text of the film from a wide selection of Baldwin's writings, and here they are put together in print. "The Fire Next Time" was published in 1963, and contains two essays by Baldwin.

Baldwin's "revival has been astonishing," writes Darryl Pinckney at the New York Review of Books. "Baldwin didn't know when to shut up about the sins of the West and he went on about them in prose that seemed to lack the grace of voice that had made him famous. But that was the view of him mostly on the white side of town."

James Baldwin in the film "I Am Not Your Negro."
James Baldwin in the film "I Am Not Your Negro." (Dan Budnik / Magnolia Pictures / TNS)

MAD GENIUS

How much did poet Robert Lowell's manic depression affect his work? That's the question May Redfield Jamison endeavors to answer in her critical biography "Robert Lowell, Setting the River on Fire." "We love the legend of the mad genius, the artist whose unchained mind offers the clearest view of the truth of our world," writes Craig Teicher in our review. But, he concludes, "I fear — and maybe hope — that what Jamison proves is that science cannot explain how and why art is made."

Robert Lowell
Robert Lowell (Harry Ransom Center)

DEATH SENTENCES

Streetwear store owner Bobby Hundreds has an online Instagram following that avidly follows his pictures of clothes, parties and … books. So he started the Death Sentences Reading Club, which held its first in-person book club at The Hundreds' flagship store this week with Davy Rothbart and his essay collection, "My Heart Is An Idiot." And Agatha French was there.

Davy Rothbart and Bobby Hundred
Davy Rothbart and Bobby Hundred (Agatha French)
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