Ocean Vuong, Elizabeth Acevedo, Ben Lerner: The Books Briefing

Chloe Aridjis is not a poet, but her novel Sea Monsters works much like a poem and does not derive its meaning from the plot, but from vivid images that mix and change meaning as the book progresses.

Every Friday, in the Books Briefing, we thread Atlantic stories into books that share similar ideas.

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What we read

Ocean Vuong

(Mengwen Cao)

Go home with Ocean Vuong

“In a way, Vuong does the same magic through his poetry and now through his novel. He builds a world that draws from his own life and makes the reader’s experience more real, more beautiful and more our own. “

📚 On earth we are briefly beautiful from Ocean Vuong
📚 Night sky with exit wounds from Ocean Vuong

Souvankham Thammavongsa

(SARAH BODRI / THE ATLANTIC)

Souvankham Thammavongsa on the inner life of children
“Both poetry and fiction require discipline, accuracy, and attention. But when I write fiction, I try to make sure that it isn’t based on what I did in poetry. The fiction should be clear. Writing is always a surprise. “

📚 “Edge of the World” from the How to Pronounce Knife collection by Souvankham Thammavongsa

Elizabeth Acevedo

(MAKEBA RAINEY / STEPHANIE IFENDU)

Elizabeth Acevedo’s work is a welcome rarity in youth literature

“Overall, Acevedo’s work is a project of strict, interdisciplinary citation. The author was a poet and English teacher before becoming a writer and aspiring rapper before finding her way to poetry slams. However, her first encounter with the comfort and challenge of storytelling came from the myths her mother told in Acevedo’s childhood. ”

📚 The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
📚 With the fire at the height of Elizabeth Acevedo

illustration

(ALEXEI VELLA)

Boy, all the time

“The book’s implicit dictate is that research into myopic white male monologues seething with rage in the Midwest in the late 1990s could shed light on America today.”

📚 Ben Lerner’s Topeka School

Book cover

(CATAPULT)

The strange beach novel that Mallarmé would be proud of

“Sea Monsters draws little energy from what happens to Luisa or how she changes on her travels. Instead, it works like a poem, collecting steam through image, repetition, and metaphor. “

📚 Sea monsters by Chloe Aridjis

About us: This week’s newsletter was written by Kate Cray. The book she is reading right now is Middlemarch by George Eliot.

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Kate Cray is an editorial assistant at The Atlantic.

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