Bursting onto the literary scene with her acclaimed debut novel The People in the Trees in 2013, Hanya Yanagihara continues to wow with her multi-award nominated A Little Life. Similarly upsetting, challenging, and deeply moving, A Little Life takes readers from the jungle to the streets of New York as it chronicles the relationships between four male friends from the time they graduate college until they are in their fifties. In its pages, Yanagihara offers up a profound story of brotherly love that explores race, homosexuality, loyalty, and success, and culminates in a dark examination of trauma, memory, and the limits of human endurance.
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Book Brahmin: Pam Cady
|photo: Anna Micklin|
Pam Cady has been in the book business since 1981, when she accepted her first job after moving from Rhode Island, as a bookseller for B. Dalton Bookseller in Torrance, Calif. After that she helped run a small independent shop in Long Beach, Calif. She and her family moved to Seattle, and in 1997 she joined the part-time staff at University Book Store. After working at several branch stores and a long stint in the children’s department, Pam became assistant manager of the general books department at the flagship store in 2007, and in 2013 she became the manager. Pam is proud to work with a staff of smart and passionate booksellers who go to great lengths to put the right books in the hands of readers. An art lover, Pam’s truest book love is picture books.
On your nightstand now:
The Cloud of Unknowing by Anonymous, Bettyville by George Hodgman, Boo by Neil Smith, In a Dark Wood by Joseph Luzzi, Dinner with Buddha by Roland Merullo, Agnes Martin: Her Life and Art by Nancy Princenthal and My Favorite Things by Maira Kalman.
Favorite book when you were a child:
Charlotte’s Web. It remains one of my favorite books of all time.
Your top five authors:
My top five authors of the last several months: Hanya Yanagihara, Lin Enger, John Benditt, Anthony Doerr and Marianne Dubuc.
Book you’ve faked reading:
I faked reading half of it. When I was in high school, I read only half of The Scarlet Letter. Sorry, Mrs. Downs.
Book you’re an evangelist for:
Well, I’ve spoken everyone’s ear off about The Boatmaker by John Benditt already, so now I’m crazy for A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. I fell hard for Jude. I don’t know when I’ve been more in love with a character before. But it just wrecked me.
Book you’ve bought for the cover:
Anything by Maira Kalman. And I’ve never been disappointed. I feel like I have a long-distance love relationship with Maira that only I know about.
Book that changed your life:
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton. That book made me a true reader. Before that I really couldn’t sit still long enough to read (to myself).
Favorite line from a book:
“All I hope to say in books, all that I ever hope to say, is that I love the world.” –E.B White, Letters
Which character you most relate to:
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. I was sitting in my living room, laughing so hard at David learning to speak French that my daughter ran up the stairs to make sure I wasn’t having a heart attack. But mostly, I don’t read back. It’s always finding that next book that I’ll want to read again for the first time.
It’s the time of year for renewal. To restart cycles, redye the hairdo, rewind the cassette tapes. Snow melts, songbirds sing, colors bloom, the sun comes out and old things come back to us in new forms. For example, books come out in paperback. You might say, well, books come out in paperback all year. Sure. That’s true. But I’m painting a larger picture here. Anyways all the paperbacks I’m talking about came out in spring. Good enough? Moving on.
Like a butterfly from chrysalis, a paperback doesn’t necessarily match it’s larval, hardcover iteration. For anyone like me who, for better or worse, went to art school, the design decisions are more than kind of interesting. Some books keep the original design. Those who do are often the mainstream mega-bestsellers – Dan Brown, Sue Grafton, Janet Evanovich, even Game of Thrones – but the literary stuff usually gets a fresh breath of life, or at least a new take. To illustrate, here’s a selection of my 2013 favorites that have come back around with new plumage.
The People in the Trees knocked my socks clean off. When I finished it was hard to read anything else for a while, and even now I’ll stop reading a book that I realize is trying to do something The People in the Trees did much better – namely, be haunting, wonderfully crafted and well-told, like Shirley Jackson’s stuff, or The Sparrow or Geek Love. It lingers like a bad, beautiful dream. And as for the covers, the hardcover (left) gets the moody strangeness and the paperback (right) gets the violence. One great thing about the hardcover is that if you were holding it in your hands you’d see the maggots all over the spine. It’s brilliant. The paperback is handsome, too, but moreso than dreamlike/odd it falls toward edgy/gritty. And if you haven’t read it and are wondering what the deal is with the turtle, well, then, read the book.
This I read in one sitting. We Need New Names was a finalist for the Man-Booker Prize and why was obvious in the reading – swift prose and a powerful narrative voice telling a damn good story. The hardcover (left) is electric yellow with skinny typography, which gets the exotic setting and the skinny legs of the young protagonist & her pals. The plane in the center takes the protagonist from her friends in Zimbabwe to America, and her aunt. The paperback (right) borrows much of the same palette but has the feel of U.S. propaganda painted on wood panels, maybe the side of someone’s home in Zimbabwe shortly before it’s bulldozed by Revolutionaries. As you might notice, the book got some good attention. Paperbacks often wear awards & praise like generals wear war medals, to gaudy results. This cover handles its accolades well. I hope it means this book will be noticed and read.
Perhaps you’ve also noticed that all these entries are debut books by women writers. All I can say is, so they are. It’s exciting because every book here is incredible and these writers are young and just getting their motors going. The Panopticon was written by a Scottish poet. The protagonist is a young girl and the setting is a prison. The hardcover (left) gets the prison (bars, keyhole), but the paperback (right), in a very subtle upgrade, really hints at what kind of prison – circular, with a watchtower in the middle to observe all prisoners at once. Also hypnotic, radiating lines which evoke the concentric circles of the prison and the protagonist’s often drug-induced, quasi-hallucinogenic, paranoid experience of her world. Both covers are stunning and capture well how unlike this book is from almost any other. And of note, both covers may have subconscious appeal to Hitchcock fans. And that’s all for now, til the next installment – happy reading, whether your book be hardcover, paperback, or e-.
Like the group of college students who, in 1974, were given an early screening of Star Wars to determine if lightsabers and Death Stars would indeed enthrall the young masses (and indeed it did), we booksellers are given heaps of books in advance of release so we might read and be (or not be) enthralled. Here are three that enthralled me:
Release date: Aug. 6, 2013
This is a good one, readers. Think Louise Erdrich’s multi-generational, decade-spanning family sagas, set in the unforgiving landscape of 1798 frontier Virginia. After the death of his wife, Daniel Dickinson, a Quaker, marries his young servant. That, it turns out, was a very bad decision, and Daniel and his young children are kicked out of the community. His troubles start there, grow, and multiply as the family travels to Virginia and settle. The most shocking event, which sets most of what follows in motion, is Daniel’s purchase of a young slave, an action that surprises Daniel himself most of all. Throughout, The Purchase is beautiful, violent, touching, honest, and very real. Big recommendation.
The People in the Trees
by Hanya Yanagihara
Release date: Aug. 13, 2013
Conceive, if you will, a delirious brew of H.P. Lovecraft, Gothic horror, and Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow – the encounter of the Other, gone hideously wrong – and you start to get a taste of The People in the Trees. This book knocked me out like nothing in recent memory – wildly unique, haunting, well-made and carefully written. Between shudders, I remembered fondly Ellen Ullman’s overlooked novel By Blood and how unreliable narrators make horror all the more horrifying. People in the Trees, while a throwback in style, is wholly original – Yanagihara makes a strange, astonishing debut here, and it’s one of my absolute favorites of recent years.
Release Date: Oct. 8, 2013
If you haven’t read Chuck’s Damned, read Chuck’s Damned. Then just try and tell me you aren’t itching to know what happens next in Madison’s adventure. As someone who read Chuck Palahniuk in high school – Invisible Monsters on through to, approximately, Lullaby – then fell off, reading these two entries of his in-progress trilogy have made me wish I had kept pace with him throughout the years. There is something special about these books. Madison is one of the most humane, generous, and plucky protagonists to navigate such a bizarre, (literally) hellish landscape as contained here. She does, however, drive a spear through contemporary pretension, privilege, and social posturing with merciless derring-do – this time, though, the point is less about outrage, and more about…love. Who would of thought?