“In the late winter of 2006, I returned to my home town and bought 612 acres of land on the far western edge of the county.” So begins, innocently enough, J. Robert Lennon’s gripping and brilliant new novel. Awkward, guarded, and more than a little adamant about his need for privacy, Eric Loesch sets about renovating a rundown old house in the small, upstate New York town where he spent his childhood. When he inspects the title to the property, however, he discovers that there is a plot of dense forest smack in the middle of his land that he does not own. What’s more, the name of the person it belongs to is blacked out… The answer to what—and who—might lie at the heart of Loesch’s property stands at the center of this daring and riveting novel from an author whose writing, according to Ann Patchett, “has enough electricity to light up the country.”
The New York of Lynne Tillman’s hilarious, audacious fourth novel is a boiling point of urban decay.
The East Village streets are overrun with crooked cops, drug addicts, pimps and prostitutes. Garbage piles up along the sidewalks amid the blaring soundtrack of car stereos. Confrontations are supercharged by the summer heat wave. This merciless noise has left Elizabeth Hall an insomniac. Junkies roam her building and overturn trashcans, but the mean-spirited landlord refuses to help clean or repair the decrepit conditions. Live-in boyfriend Roy is good-natured but too avoidant to soothe the sores of city life.
Though Elizabeth fights on for normalcy and sanity in this apathetic metropolis, violent fantasies threaten to push her over the edge. In vivid detail, she begins to imagine murders: those of the “morons” she despises, and, most obsessively, her own.
Frightening, hilarious, and wholly addictive, No Lease on Life is an avant-garde sucker-punch, a plea for humanity propelled by dark wit and unflinching honesty. Tillman’s spare prose, frank, poignant and always illuminating, captures all the raving absurdity of a very bad day in America’s toughest, hottest melting pot.
Cover image adapted from a photo by madabandon.
The stories in Some Day This Will Be Funny marry memory to moment in a union of narrative form as immaculate and imperfect as the characters damned to act them out on page. Lynne Tillman, author of American Genius, presides over the ceremony; Clarence Thomas, Marvin Gaye, and Madame Realism mingle at the reception. Narrators—by turn infamous and nameless—shift within their own skin, struggling to unknot reminiscence from reality while scenes rush into warm focus, then cool, twist, and snap in the breeze of shifting thought. Epistle, quotation, and haiku bounce between lyrical passages of lucid beauty, echoing the scattered, cycling arpeggio of Tillman’s preferred subject: the unsettled mind. Collectively, these stories own a conscience shaped by oaths made and broken; by the skeleton silence and secrets of family; by love’s shifting chartreuse. They traffic in the quiet images of personal history, each one a flickering sacrament in danger of being swallowed up by the lust and desperation of their possessor: a fistful of parking tickets shoved in the glove compartment, a little black book hidden from a wife in a safe-deposit box, a planter stuffed with flowers to keep out the cooing mourning doves. They are stories fashioned with candor and animated by fits of wordplay and invention—stories that affirm Tillman’s unshakable talent for wedding the patterns and rituals of thought with the blushing immediacy of existence, defying genre and defining experimental short fiction.
Cover background image by Charles Orr
For as long as she could remember, Sarah has had a frightening nightmare. In it, she inexplicably kills her mother. After this nightmare she feels compelled to steal something. Not just anything, but some particular item which seems significant. Yet over the years she couldn’t figure out the relevance of any of these stolen items. No one knows of Sarah’s problem and she has no solution, despite reading dozens of psychology books hoping to find the answer.
Then Aunt Kat, her mother’s sister whom Sarah has never met comes to visit which begins a frustrating weekend. Her mother falls and breaks her ankle and suddenly Sarah’s nightmares begin to change to include sleepwalking. In desperation, Sarah seeks help and turns to Josie her odd but brilliant schoolmate.
Together the girls try to trace the source of Sarah’s problem. Books, the stolen items, clues in the new nightmares, all seem to lead nowhere. Even the cryptic pronouncement of a psychic referring to a “grave beside a tomb” means nothing. But finally, everything begins to fall into place. Sarah begins to discover hidden things about herself which make her wish she had never begun the search.
Few of us actually know all the things which make us who we are but Sarah’s past hid more than most.
Image credit: lindaaslund