The longlist for the 2019 Booker prize was recently announced with literary heavyweights like Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, and Chigozie Obioma appearing on the list. The pool of well-accomplished authors didn’t come as a shock to anyone, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few noticeable surprises on the list. One of the most striking inclusions was Lucy Ellmann’s 1,020 page novel Ducks, Newburyport which is composed of only eight sentences.
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Following in the footsteps of modernist writers like James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, Ellman expands upon the boundaries of what a novel can be in the 21st century. The story follows the monologue of an Ohio housewife as she worries about her children, her dead parents, the bedroom rituals of “happy couples,” Weapons of Mass Destruction, school shootings, and all of the horrors of modern American life.
Ellmann takes stream of consciousness to the next level. The eight long sentences that comprise the novel come at the reader like a barrage with no paragraph breaks and little room for pause. The narrative is stitched together with commas and a reoccuring refrain: “the fact that.”
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The novel may seem daunting, Ellmann’s captivating language and wry sense of humor drives the reader through the story. Personally, I can’t wait for the audiobook, which I hope is narrated by Mark Hamill.
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The winner of The Booker Prize will be announced in October. In the meantime, check out some of the other books on the longlist.
April 22nd is Earth Day, and while you’re all busy reducing, reusing, and recycling, we’ve made a list of cli-fi books for you to read and share. Cli-Fi has become a new genre of fiction, focusing on the most drastic effects of climate change that we face by taking no actions to stop it. They’re eerie, they’re surprisingly accurate, and they’re a lot of fun.
1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
The many 80’s references and killer virtual reality video game detract from the fact that Ready Player One paints a disturbing picture of the future. The plot develops due to the fact that the environment has literally deteriorated. The book takes place in the year 2045, which is really not too far into the future. We’ve even recently been warned that we can start to see similar effects by the time we do get to the 2040’s. The earth is destitute, and people are living in stacks of trailers. Because there is little to no agriculture due to climate change, there is little to no income. Kids are using computers to attend school in a virtual reality setting, and virtual currencies are worth significantly more than national currencies. The book highlights just how much of a threat is posed if we allow the environment to crumble like we currently are. The economy will crumble right behind it, leaving us to rely on a billionaire to develop a game like Oasis where we can win his entire estate. This is what gamers have been preparing for their whole lives, but it would just be easier if we planted some trees.
2. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
I bet you had no idea that long before saving the bees and trees became a global concern, Dr. Seuss was warning the world about the threat dangerous progress posed to the earth’s natural beauty through The Lorax. We’ve destroyed whole forests to build cities, and allowed gas guzzling cars to take over as a main source of transportation because it was most convenient. We never even tried to understand what these things would do until it was too late. While the book is aimed towards children, adults still have a lot to learn from Dr. Seuss.
3. The MaddAddam Series by Margaret Atwood
Margaret Atwood has been eerily accurate in her dystopian novels, and this is no exception. Atwood holds up a mirror to show us what we are facing by doing nothing about the pending dooms of climate change in these three books: Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, and MaddAddam. After a man-made plague wipes out a good percentage of the world’s population, a bio-engineered species is created to replace humans. You were worried about robots taking your jobs, well this is even scarier. The books track several characters as they face rising sea levels and quite literally the end of the world as we know it. Should we be scared? Definitely, as it seems life does seem to be headed the way Atwood predicts in her other dystopias, and even after being warned we need to take action we remain unsurprisingly inactive.
4. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Road takes a look at a father and son duo, who find themselves trekking across a burned up United States in search of the shore. Snow has turned grey, and the only movement is that of the ashes. A dried up and burned up earth may not seem so close to reality, but California has already experienced drought and wildfires that may make you think twice about that. Armed with only a pistol, the duo make their way across the country, with only love for the other to save themselves. Hope has gone out the window, there is a lingering fear of others who they may come across. The only food they have is what they brought with them. There is no livestock, no crops, not even a bush of berries to sustain them. In a world that has been destroyed by climate changes, it is clear there is nothing left but fear and hopelessness.
5. New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson
Taking place just over a century in the future, it is clear through New York 2140 that climate change is seriously in effect. The water has risen, submerging all of New York City. Every street has become a waterway, and every skyscraper an island. Though the story is told with a humorous tone, it is clear these are not funny circumstances. Subway gone, historic monuments gone, the New York Public Library gone. Robinson tells the story through the eyes of several characters all observing the new New York from a single building. Through Robinson’s craft, it is easy to see the undesirable changes New York undergoes and, therefore, we undergo.
6. The Rain Never Came by Lachlan Walter
After a drought strikes Australia, citizens in The Rain Never Came are escorted away towards more livable environments. Some decide to remain behind, hiding in places no one would dare look. Bill Cook and Tobe Cousins are just two such people. The book clearly plays on very real fears that we face in conjunction with climate change. Like I said earlier, California is currently facing this issue. This is no longer some dystopian idea, it is real life for too many people. There is definitely a post-apocalyptic feel to this book, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that this could soon be reality.
7. Gold Fame Citrus by Claire Vaye Watkins
Gold Fame Citrus takes the story of Luz and Ray, survivors of a drought-struck California. People have been ushered to government camps on the east coast, while others have been stopped from crossing the California border. Those left are surviving on rations of water and anything else they can scavenge for. Destitute land turning citizens into thieves and vigilantes is nothing new in Cli-Fi, but what makes this original is the fact that this isn’t some far-fetched idea. Again, droughts in California are happening. While we haven’t yet started rationing anything or shipping people off to encampments, what is to say we won’t if things do get worse?
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale is even more popular and relevant than ever thanks to the critically acclaimed Hulu series of the same name, which is currently filming its third season. Now, Atwood is preparing a sequel more than thirty years after the original.