In “Counternarratives,” John Keene conjures lost memoirs, detectives pulps, and newspaper reports to rewrite literary and cultural history. This new story collection carves daring paths through the Western canon, reviving Jim and Huck Finn, Langston Hughes and Xavier Villaurrutia, sorcery, slavery, and colonialism. Keene’s blend of history and narrative, the familiar and the strange, reads like a furious Ishmael Reed channeling his inner Borges: careful yet caustic. Fans of “Annotations,” Keene’s brief, brilliant study of home, have waited a long time for his next offering. It is here, and it is brilliant and biting.
Greenlight Bookstore’s pick: “Can’t and Won’t” by Lydia Davis
Lydia Davis is a miniaturist, a stylist, an obsessive writer of the small and particular that all too often disappears into the void of everyday life. In her newest collection she presents some of her shortest stories to date. She builds her pieces carefully sequence by sequence, so that minor moments gain weighty significance. She writes in the form of absurd and incoherent dreams, letters, and lists. She catalogs the inconsistencies and surprising contingencies of life. This is a collection for the malcontented, the idiosyncratic, and for those curious to learn about existence in its most peculiar manifestations.
— Maya Solove, Greenlight Bookstore [686 Fulton St. between S. Elliott Place and S. Portland Avenue in Fort Greene, (718) 246–0200, www.greenl
This is not your typical apocalypse prep book. Dartnell focuses on the science and history behind the items we take for granted, a sort of “how we got to now” thought experiment. He writes about communications, agriculture, technologies, and medicine. Would we be able to recreate penicillin from scratch? Could you make your own clothing? While reading, I realized how woefully unprepared I was. The book is educational, fun, and thought-provoking.
— Alyssa Ki, Word [126 Franklin St. at Milton Street in Greenpoint, (718) 383–0096, www.wordbr
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