If Blind Spot, Teju Cole’s most recent book, is an extension of his work on Instagram, it is only because he uses social media towards that rare and admirable thing: not as a tool for marketing himself, but as a platform for experimentation.
The Gargoyle Hunters is a father-son story set in the 1970s about New York City’s movement between past and future. Part caper, part tragedy, it’s a coming-of-age book that leaves me wondering if we ever really come of age—our city certainly doesn’t. The novel is richly observed, I think, because there is no fixed judgment or overruling nostalgia. John’s characters, especially his winning young protagonist, Griffin, and his beloved urban landscape are always evolving, but they are not taking for granted the things they leave behind. There is a sense of mourning all bound up with a sense of celebration. Discovery and rediscovery.
The title of John Freeman Gill’s debut novel, The Gargoyle Hunters, references a 1962 New York Herald Tribune feature called “Gargoyle Hunting in New York.” From the 1950s through the 1970s, a period of widespread urban renewal threatened to demolish many of the city’s most historic buildings, a majority of which had gone up in the early 19th and 20th centuries, designed by world-renowned architects and carved by immigrant stone carvers who left their mark etching creatures and human figures into their walls.
In her debut essay collection, This Will Be My Undoing, twenty-five-year old Morgan Jerkins explores a number of topics that are essential to today’s political climate. She describes the complexities of growing up and living as a black woman in America, delving into cultural and social criticism while remaining true to her own personal experiences.
When we realize that the imagined store of potential we have for our lives is always about to be measured in relation to what actually ends up happening, it can be difficult to live in the moment. What do we do when our minds cross the line from the present to an anticipation of what our experiences will mean for the future? The question can be especially thorny for writers, as Cheston Knapp shows in his debut essay collection Up Up, Down Down.
In Natalie Singer’s memoir, California Calling: A Self-Interrogation, (Hawthorne Books, March 1, 2018), the author lays out all manner of forces to evacuate a silenced voice, a self she lost at sixteen years old. California Calling is the remembering of a mosaic of experiences, growing up female in a divided family, within the myths of California—a state that promised becoming and belonging.
With a backdrop of such fertile material, Zumas could have told any number of large, grand-scale stories. But this is not the story of a small group of freedom fighters taking on a shadowy, overreaching government. In fact, the men in power here remain unseen and faceless. Outside of the casual reference to “a fetus-loving new president,” we know next to nothing about them. Instead, the book explores the reverberations of these policies in the lives of four women in a small Oregon fishing town. It doesn’t take long to see that this world isn’t science fiction at all. We’re perilously close to it becoming a reality in our own.