I am so happy to have stumbled upon Vigdis Hjorth: the author of 20 novels, only three of which have so far been translated into English. Long Live the Post Horn! is the most recently available and it is so delightful and strange that I read it in one sitting. The narrative follows a young PR representative struggling with identity and an increasing sense that everything in her life is meaningless. When a colleague disappears and she inherits his project of representing the Norwegian Post and Communications Union in opposing an EU directive, she becomes so invested in the struggle that she begins to reinvest in her own life. Hjorth’s writing is hypnotic and unsentimental, yet incredibly affecting, as she questions social responsibility and the nature of storytelling. In a year where threats to the postal service have been all too real, this book is refreshingly hopeful about what it looks like when those with the power to control stories choose people over commerce.
Enriquez’s 2017 Things We Lost in the Fire is one of my favorite short-fiction collections of all time; now, after a four-year wait, I'm happy to report that The Dangers of Smoking in Bed is every bit as magnetic and horrifying. Drawing on the places and cultural mythologies of her native Argentina, these pieces speak to specifically Latin American-inspired terror, but they resonate universally. Suffused with the kind of dread that lodges in your spine and drags you down as you read, these pages are haunted by curses, zombie ancestors, and the ghosts of murdered children. But the true menace here lies in the nightmares of everyday life lived in poverty, amidst military dictatorships and state sanctioned violence. If you’re looking to be jolted out of your own reality, these stories are for you.
Laurie Colwin is perhaps best known to modern readers as a food writer, writing a column for Gourmet magazine and her genre-defining book of food essays, Homecooking. Fortunately for new audiences, her works are being republished this year, starting with her incredible 1978 novel, Happy All the Time. If you’ve felt depressed and anxious and stressed any time in the last year, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. And if you haven’t then you’re unfairly lucky and should still read it. Happy All the Time is a bubbly, hilarious, fiercely clever comedy of manners set in a version of New York that seems to exist only in old movies, where everyone is clever and complicated and always impeccably dressed. And where it seemed perfectly acceptable to take long lunches at upscale restaurants to mull over romantic tribulations with a whiskey soda in hand. This book is some amazing amalgam of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Sex in the City, as written by Nora Ephron. Read it to become a Laurie Colwin evangelist and to soothe your pandemic-bruised soul.