School Library Journal/LJ staffers enter the badlands with antiheroes, haunted houses, bad behavior, and murder featuring in What We’re Reading this week.
Mahnaz Dar, Associate Editor, SLJ
This weekend, I finished watching Breaking Bad, and, of course, immersed myself in a ton of relevant articles, including The New Yorker TV critic Emily Nussbaum’s criticism of Bad Fans, Esquire’s explanation of why the show is so great, and, turning to the Gray Lady, two fascinating pieces: an op-ed from Anna Gunn, the actress who plays Walter White’s long-suffering wife; and a fake in-universe New York Times piece by columnist—and fan—Andrew Ross Sorkin.
Breaking Bad also led me to start rereading one of my favorite series of all time, a manga called Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba (text) and Takeshi Obata (illus.), published by VIZ Media.
Like BB, the “Death Note” series features an antihero (a teenage boy who discovers a magical notebook that lets him kill anyone he wishes), tight plotting, and a game of cat and mouse; it’s also spawned countless fun Internet memes.
Liz French, Senior Editor, Reviews, LJ
I got lost in the past again—basically that could be my opening line almost every week. While compiling last week’s Classic Returns column, which focused on recently reissued books that that have a movie connection, I got hooked on Ted Lewis’s Get Carter (Soho Crime: Syndicate). It’s a British crime novel, originally published in 1970, titled Jack’s Return Home. The movie made from Lewis’s book, 1971’s Get Carter, starred a young and snakey Michael Caine as Carter, and it was a big hit in the UK—so big that the book was retitled. While the movie exerted a big influence on subsequent British “bad lad” films (and a few American ones—see Steven Soderbergh’s 1999 revenge classic The Limey), the novel and Lewis’s other titles went out of print. Soho’s Syndicate imprint is working on rectifying that: they plan on reissuing all nine novels by Lewis, including two other Jack Carter titles. While I’m interested to read more Jack Carter adventures, I could use a break. He is the antihero’s antihero, wreaking vengeance in a corner of England that nobody would want to visit ever. Lewis sure knew how to set the mood and his descriptions are brutally inventive. But after so much rain, “greyness,” scotch and bitters swilling, and casual cruelties, I need to read something a little more sunshiney next time out.
Stephanie Klose, Media Editor, LJ
I’m having a bit of a haunted house moment right now. After Lauren Oliver’s terrific Rooms, I started in on Edgar Cantero’s The Supernatural Enhancements (Doubleday), the story of a mysterious young man who inherits a huge old house in Virginia from a distant cousin he’d never met and moves there with a mute young Irishwoman. The book is akin to Marisha Pessl’s Night Film in the sense that both seek to unravel a knotty mystery through the use of text and other media. Cantero features documents, diary entries, letters, photos, and cryptograms as his protagonists try to figure out what’s haunting their house, why the two previous owners committed suicide, and how a secret society and missing seven-foot-tall butler fit into it. When I left them at the end of my commute this morning, they were trying to superimpose the layout of their backyard hedge maze onto a grid of letters sent from one society member to another.
Amanda Mastrull, Assistant Editor, Reviews, LJ
This week I’m reading Joel Dicker’s The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair (Penguin). I wrote about it here once before, in the post-BEA WWR (I got my copy at the Association of American Publishers/LibraryReads Adult Librarians’ dinner, where Dicker also spoke), as a title I was excited to read. So it only took two months for me to actually start it. This was mainly owing to thinking a 600-plus-page novel was a bit of an undertaking when I have a backlog of books I need to read for other reasons (reviews, etc.), but I’ve put all those aside because I’m completely engrossed in this one. It’s essentially a book about a book, in many ways. In 2008, the titular Harry Quebert, a famous author, is arrested for the 1975 murder of a 15-year-old girl with whom he, at age 34, had a romantic relationship; he soon admits that his most lauded novel is about that love affair. His friend and protégé, fellow author Marcus Goldman, is suffering from writer’s block and goes to the small New Hampshire town Quebert lives in, where he begins his own investigation of the crime. He starts writing a book about it, which, owing to Dicker’s time line, we know he finished. The narrative jumps around a lot—from Marcus’s current narration, back to his time getting to know Quebert in college, and even further back to the summer of 1975—and I find myself caring about the events of each era, which doesn’t always happen with stories that progress this way. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll stop now, but it’s so good.