Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

Recommendations from the staff at Seven Stories Press

For this episode of our self-titled Staff Picks Comeback Tour, all of our book recommendations (where possible*) link directly to our comrades at Point Reyes Books. Next month, we'll link to another independent bookstore. And the next month, and the month after that. Perhaps until the end of time. 

We miss our bookstore friends so, so much, and we can't wait to see you soon.

*Where it's not available, we link to either Alibris or the book's publisher. 

The Hole by Hiroko Oyamada, translated by David Boyd

Consider me a Hiroko Oyamada devotee. In summer 2019, before the world changed, I picked up a copy of Hiroko Oyamada's first book, The Factory, from Unnameable Books in Prospect Heights. I devoured it that same afternoon, seated under a bushy tree in Fort Greene Park. Like The Factory, Oyamada's second book, The Hole, is slim, surreal novel, but instead of focusing on the absurdity of working life, The Hole considers its opposite. A woman quits her job and follows her husband to the countryside so they can live closer to his new workplace, and they settle in a house next door to his mother and grandfather. Home alone all day and without much to occupy her time, she finds herself exploring the misty forest behind their family's property. Naturally, it gets weird. Holes begin to appear throughout the forest, the protagonist encounters a large furry beast of unknown origin, and it turns out the husband's family has been hiding some pretty consequential stuff from her. I won't spoil it, but I encourage you to read it. It's fun and weird and less than 100 pages, so it's an easy read when the world is getting you down. 


The Twilight Zone: A Novel Cover Image
The Twilight Zone by Nona Fernández, translated by Natasha Wimmer

The story starts in 1984 in the midst of Pinochet's dictatorship in Chile. A member of the "secret police" confesses his crimes to a journalist, which makes the cover and haunts the narrator of the book until this day. Fernandez uses the TV show The Twilight Zone and other surreal visions to map this man's crimes and craft a story of someone complicit with state brutality. Spacey, spooky, and dark, I love how Fernandez uses the surreal to explore Chile's dark past which haunts many to this day. Fernandez's Space Invaders (also about the Pinochet regime but told through the eyes of school children and the videogame) was one of my favorite books last year, and The Twilight Zone might follow for this one. 

TV rec: Ink Master is my latest reality TV obsession. 16 tattoo artists compete for $100,000, battling it out, tattooing on "human canvases" on different tattooing skills... what could go wrong? I can't even draw a circle, but I find myself screaming at the TV about how a tattoo's lines definitely ARE NOT clean and how anatomically incorrect American traditional pin-ups look. There's 11 seasons and I'm still halfway through 4, so it's enough to last me until the city (hopefully) opens up for the summer and I never have to look at a screen again. 


The Emissary by Yoko Tawada, translated by Margaret Mitsutani

The story takes place in Japan after an unknown disaster, but hints at nuclear fallout, and borders are closed. The elderly are in such good health they make up the workforce, meanwhile the youth are so sickly they can barely stand. But the dark critique of aging populations and environmental disaster is tempered by the sweet relationships between the grandfather Yoshiro and his ailing grandson Mumei, among others. I picked this off the shelf during a catsitting stay but unfortunately my reading was interrupted by my impending departure (I was very tempted to tuck the little book into my pocket and steal away with it). The Emissary’s language is so gorgeous and has so many moments that made me just stop and reread the same sentence over again—probably why I couldn’t finish it in time. While it feels largely expository, its images have long stayed with me (there’s this moment of cutting fruit that I can’t stop thinking about!).


Hung Up

Hung Up by Hunter Harris

Nothing is giving me more happiness right now than Hunter Harris’s newsletter about pop culture. Hung Up is hilarious and smart and chatty and weird, and every time it lands in my inbox I feel like I’ve gotten an email from my best friend. It’s also short enough that my pandemic-fried brain can digest it, and it introduced me to Sharon Stone’s social media presence, for which I will be forever grateful. Half of it will be going behind a paywall soon but if you like it/can afford to I highly encourage you to subscribe for five bucks a month and support this very good writer! And if you’re looking for a post to start with, I recommend this one about Phantom Thread.


The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cuba by Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis, translated by Flora Thomson-DeVeaux

The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cuba begins: “TO THE WORM THAT FIRST GNAWED AT THE COLD FLESH OF MY CADAVER I DEDICATE AS A FOND REMEMBRANCE THESE POSTHUMOUS MEMOIRS.” Cubas, a now-dead Brazilian aristocrat with plenty of time on his now-dead hands, picks through his life—his childhood exploits, his failed romances, his petty annoyances with almost everyone he ever encountered on Earth. Cubas, untouchable after death, is reflective but playful, biting but comical... An entirely inventive book and an incredible introduction to Machado de Assis.


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