I picked up My Brilliant Friend, the first book in Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan Trilogy (Europa Editions), a few weeks ago, but the Italian author has been on my radar since I read James Wood’s rave review of her “intensely, violently personal” novels in The New Yorker last year. The books, set in a poor neighbourhood of Naples following the Second World War, are centred around the rivalrous, entangled life-long friendship between Elena and Lila.
The New Yorker also led me to another book in my reading pile: The YOLO Pages (Boost House), edited by 26-year-old poet Steve Roggenbuck with contributions from the likes of @horse_ebooks, Andrew W.K. (yes, that Andrew W.K.), Tao Lin, Gabby Bess, Patricia Lockwood, Canada’s Ashley Opheim, and many others. The anthology is filled with unusual writing, often paired with graphics or ripped straight from Twitter, and is heavily influenced by “alt-lit,” “weird twitter,” (quotations Roggenbuck’s) and associated Internet-based movements.
Owing to my recent fascination with the aforementioned fringe writers, Canada’s alt-lit poster boy, Guillaume Morissette, is of course on my list. I’ve been aware of the Montreal writer since reading his witty, thoughtful, and self-deprecating account of discovering himself as a writer, “How I Failed at Life in Quebec City” (published in Maisonneuve magazine). There was something arresting about his honesty and reading it, and I thought: Who is this guy? In New Tab, which has got to be at least 75 per cent autobiographical, I will soon find out.
This will be the second summer in a row I delve into a novel by Rachel Kushner. Last summer I took The Flamethrowers with me on my first trip to Europe, and walked the streets of Rome where Kushner’s Reno fell into a radical, revolutionary scene in the 1970s. This summer, it will be Kushner’s vivid writing alone in Telex from Cuba that will take me down south.
Finally, I’m eager to read Chez L’Arabe (House of Anansi Press) by Mereille Silcoff, the Montreal journalist’s first foray into fiction. I’ve been a fan of Silcoff’s regular columns in the National Post, and her fascinating New York Times Magazine feature on women’s ski jumping last fall had me invested in the Olympic Games like never before. I’m looking forward to following Silcoff’s next chapter (sorry) as a writer.