3 Sharp and Satirical Novels You *Need* to Read RN
Life is often pretty wonderful, but let’s not kid ourselves — there’s a lot that’s wrong out there. Hypocrisy, self-aggrandizement, misery, abuse… and that’s just your Facebook wall. The world we live in is ripe for satirizing, and these three recently published ladies have stepped up to the plate, serving up helpings of eviscerated cellphones, selfies and cigarettes. Pull up a tastefully expensive chair and see the world through a novel, bitingly.
1. Nicotine by Nell Zink ($20): Most social satirists are, at heart, self-aware weirdos. Standing out from the crowd means you can study it more deeply. Nell Zink’s Nicotine is full of these lovingly rendered oddballs, who inhabit a world of anarchic chaos. Zink — who was long-listed for the National Book Award last year, didn’t publish until she was 50 but can now write a book in three weeks — spins a tale surrounding Penny, who goes from a rebellious 12-year-old smoking cigarettes naked in her father’s “healing center” sweat lodge to a stunned business school graduate at his deathbed. Unemployed and heartbroken, Penny reflects on her unconventionally rebellious nature; that is, that she grew up in such a strange family that her only ability to rebel was to be conventional.
Her father, Norm, headed what was essentially a hippie cult, and her mother Amalia belonged to the Kogi Amazonian tribe until Norm found her wandering in garbage at age 12, adopted her, and later married her when she turned 18. Business school, shall we say, was not their dream. It’s Penny’s inheritance of her father’s childhood house that changes everything; visiting the New Jersey property, she’s initially nonplussed to discover a building that isn’t decrepit, but rather occupied by squatters. Penny finds these anarchists surprisingly welcoming, and soon moves in, drawn to their world she never thought she’d call home: the place they call Nicotine House. What happens when her two older half-brothers, one of who may be a sociopath, find out what’s going on?
The book is a satire of privileged activism, with Nicotine House’s residents protesting for smokers’ rights, but it’s an affectionate mockery, and treats its eccentric characters with empathy and even pathos (in the case of Norm’s death). Even though Zink might turn out another great book three weeks from now, this is one on everyone’s fall must-read list (seriously, we counted at least five), and for good reason.
2. Today Will Be Different by Maria Semple ($16): TV writer Maria Semple’s book puts a new spin on the legend of the Desperate Housewife (she’s written for Arrested Development, Mad About You and Ellen, but never took a crack at that particular series). Eleanor Flood moved from NYC, where she (surprise!) worked as a TV creative and graphic novelist, animating a well-liked cartoon called Looper Wash, to live in Seattle with her husband Joe, a hand surgeon, and their unconventional third-grade son (Timby, whose makeup habits delight his trendily open-minded private school). Eleanor, lucky as she seems, has the ennui only the privileged can enjoy. The novel covers a “day of white people problems” in her life, and begins with a stare down in the mirror and a recitation of a desperate self-improvement mantra: “Today will be different.”
“The grinding it out was a disgrace, an affront to the honor and long shot of being alive at all. The ghost-walking, the short-tempered distraction, the hurried fog.” Eleanor’s attempt at calmly tidying her life’s mess is thrown off by a series of events involving a fake-sick child, a husband’s secret plans, and a book that threatens to unbury some secrets. She’ll muddle through, though, as best she can.
This book is “national treasure” Semple’s first fiction follow-up to 2012’s wildly popular Where’d You Go, Bernadette, and is filled with subtle and not-so-subtle satire: there’s a dog named Yo-Yo, the mores and “tight-assed dreariness” of so-called friends, and Timby’s claim he was named via iPhone. It’s a pointed questioning of the particular disquiet and lack of presence that can come with a gilded cage.
3. Crosstalk by Connie Willis ($10): Smartphones and social media rule our current existence (please tweet this article to all your friends). Many of us are somewhat, and somewhat justifiably, paranoid about what that means; where is our privacy going? Does everyone know everything about us, and what are they going to do with that knowledge? (Probably try to sell us something.) Connie Willis, Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author of The Doomsday Book and To Say Nothing of the Dog, takes that thought a little farther… into our thoughts. What if, she writes, our thoughts could be heard by other people at all times?
“By the time Briddey pulled into the parking garage at Commspan, there were forty-two text messages on her phone.” Briddey Finnegan works at a tech company that’s small enough so that everyone knows everyone, and it’s practically a requirement to know your co-workers’ deal. Her boyfriend, Trent Worth, “the most eligible guy at Commspan,” is working on the company’s upcoming smartphone and has convinced her to get a little more technical. If she’ll just get an EED — a quick and easy neurosurgical procedure — their emotional connection will solidify and he just might propose. Briddey’s family is highly skeptical of this pre-proposal proposal, and she’d like to hide, but that isn’t a possibility after she starts hearing other people’s thoughts.
This is 21st-century love, “a virtual bouquet of golden rosebuds, which opened into lush yellow roses and then morphed into butterflies,” flying around our screens to the tune of “I Will Always Love You.” Crosstalk takes our conflicting fears about being alone and never being alone and exposes them with this sci-fi rom-com, where nothing is scarier than a “bad connection.”
What novels are you reading that put society under the microscope? Let us know @BritandCo!
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Pocket doors are so delightful in and of themselves. They appear when you need them, get tucked away when you don't, and make it easy to define rooms while keeping an open floor plan. Add to the pocket door a joyful patterned wallpaper surprise, and you will be sent right into fits of visual jubilation! Or something ;) Today we're sharing two simple and impactful pocket door makeovers that zhuzh up your space in a jiffy.
Anjelika Temple here, co-founder of Brit + Co and proud owner of several pocket doors! When I moved into my first real grown-up house a couple years ago, I knew I wanted to incorporate wallpaper so reached out to our friends at Chasing Paper to see how we might collaborate. It felt like a total lightbulb moment when I realized I could create a surprise pop of pattern on a couple sets of pocket doors.
Not only is it a whimsical way to bring color into a space, but the doors double as picture-perfect backdrops for all your SFH (selfies from home, obvs).
A few pro tips about install:
- Removable wallpaper is miraculously forgiving! You can take it on and off multiple times without it losing integrity (or mucking up your surface).
- I ordered this adhesive wallpaper installation kit with a squeegee and xacto knife and it worked super well. I also recommend a sharp pair of scissors for cutting longer lines.
- This is a two-person job! Get a friend, put on a playlist, and get ready to bond.
- Wild, organic patterns like Tally are great because it's challenging to spot any imperfections in pattern alignment; keep pattern choice in mind if you've got a lot of corners to match up. More geometric patterns and larger shapes leave less room for error (but are awesome in their own right!).
BATHROOM POCKET DOORS
In our primary bathroom, we chose the wallpaper pattern Tally, designed by Kelly Ventura, in White and Navy. In our space, the navy reads as a soft black, which is perfect for the space. It's easy to combine an ever-rotating collection of linens with the Tally pattern.
I love how the white trim becomes the perfect frame around this pocket door piece of art.
My favorite moment in this space is the fact that you actually get a third pop of pattern thanks to our serendipitously placed mirror!
And yes, this one works pretty darn well as a backdrop too ;)
LIVING ROOM DOUBLE DOORS
This set of doors is definitely a focal point of our home. It separates our living room from our primary bedroom which opens onto our backyard. The doors are pretty much always open, but when they're closed we wanted to evoke a fun, nature-inspired vibe. With that in mind, we selected the Lines and Moons pattern by Thimblepress in Green and Brown.
Earth mama vibes up in here! I love how the shapes and colors echo the ferns you see through the windows and the acorn wood details throughout the house.
Love this pattern moment, and xacto-ing out the door handle is def on the oddly satisfying DIY list.
For a pattern lover like me, I love that now I have this instant photo backdrop!
Thanks to Chasing Paper for providing these rolls of pure pattern amazingness. Head to chasingpaper.com to find our own favorites and start adding patterns to your home!
(Wallpaper wingwoman: Kayla Haykin; Photography: Kurt Andre)