6 book recommendations from Rachel Kushner
Rachel Kushner is the author of Telex From Cuba, The Mars Room and The Flamethrowers, which the New York magazine has called one of the new classics of the 21st century. His new collection of essays, The Hard Crowd, brings together 20 years of journalism and criticism.
The Copenhagen trilogy by Tove Ditlevsen (1967-1971).
Ditlevsen was a 20th-century Danish writer who died with her own hands. His trilogy of short memoirs, Childhood, Youth and Dependence, became the object of a literary craze. As soon as you sink your teeth in, you’ll understand why. The books are captivating. The problem is, they bite. I am still recovering.
Agostino by Alberto Moravia (1944).
When my son was 13, my mother said to me: “You must read Agostino. My mother had already recommended Moravia’s Woman of Rome, so I trust her. Agostino is perfect short story and perhaps the best literature ever written about being a 13 year old boy. It is painful, tender and funny. A masterpiece.
Star by Yukio Mishima (1960).
There are many Mishima novels that have not been translated into English. This novel about a movie star losing touch with reality was only recently. “A real star,” Mishima writes, “never happens. Showing up is for the second-rate actors who need attention.” Want to look glamorous? Stay at home. Attending things is second order.
God’s Son by Cormac McCarthy (1973).
Cormac McCarthy’s early novels are repulsive works of absolute and utterly strange genius, and basically no living writer can hold a candle to his wild streak of high art in the early 1970s. “A Child of God an kinda like you maybe ”is how he describes the protagonist of it, Lester Ballard. Lester is a deadly hillbilly who outwits the local sheriff by living underground, much like you.
The consumable man by Dorothy B. Hughes (1963).
Donna Tartt once recommended Hughes to me. I’m so glad she did. While Hughes’ most famous book, rightly so, is In a Lonely Place, The Expendable Man has one of the best opening sequences in any crime novel: A man driving from LA to Phoenix picks up a hitchhiker. – a dirty and delinquent teenager – with serious consequences.
The lover by Marguerite Duras (1984).
If Liza Minelli was Liza with a Z, Marguerite is Duras with an S. Don’t be silent, that’s wrong. All of her books are awesome, but The Lover, so sexy, austere, sleazy, and poetic, is perfect.
This article first appeared in the latest issue of The Week magazine. If you want to read more, you can try six risk-free issues of the magazine here.