Sunday, June 8, 2014

Maya Lang

Maya Lang grew up on Long Island, New York, where she stayed up reading late at night after pretending to be interested in science during the day. The Sixteenth of June, her first novel, is a modern riff on Ulysses that you can enjoy even if you’ve never read a word of Joyce. It was selected by Bookish as one of the best novels of the summer.

Recently I asked Lang about what she was reading. The author's reply:
I recently finished The Secret History after The Goldfinch ignited a full-on Donna Tartt obsession for me. You can see in this debut the qualities that later earn Tartt the Pulitzer: the Dickensian attention to detail, the vividly drawn characters, the strange blurring of time where contemporary life is mixed with characters from another era. Tartt’s worlds are ours yet slightly off, and they are intoxicating and mesmerizing for it.

Despite its galloping plot (murder at a college!), time often comes to a stop in The Secret History. Accident victims talk about how time slows at the moment of impact. A strange detail becomes sharp, arresting. Tartt’s novels capture this quality. You are aware of the larger drama, its pressing needs, but you also find yourself caught in a detail, transfixed by minutiae. We feel her characters’ predicaments acutely. We inhabit their very worlds.

I also admire that Tartt isn’t afraid to do things differently: to have her college brat pack united by a love of Ancient Greek, or to set her novel in the ‘80s, yet populate it with students who wear suits and top hats. Somehow, it all works.

The other novel I have to mention is Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. I always fear reading novels in the prime of being hyped because it seems unfair; how can the book possibly live up? But Anthony Doerr cannot be praised enough. This is an enthralling, marvelous read—the kind of book you can’t put down, where you simultaneously need to know what happens yet dread having it end because its company has been so lovely. Radios, snails, museums, gemology, France, the sea; Doerr’s world is teeming with beauty, with life itself, a convergence of characters and objects and time.
Visit Maya Lang's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Sixteenth of June.

--Marshal Zeringue