Image: Courtesy of Stephen Inglis
Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It
After two well-received novels, Meloy returns to the short story, the form in which she made her notable debut and to which her lucid style is arrestingly well suited. Many of these stories are set in Meloy’s native Montana, and all are about domestic distress—about love, mostly, and the trouble stirred up by its often inconvenient insistence. Several are poised in the limbo of adultery, in the time between act and confession. Always true to her wide-ranging though consistently introspective characters, Meloy convincingly depicts the inchoate emotion that drives people, while also distilling meaning from it.
What Do You Want From Me?
A domestic reckoning of sorts, the latest book by Apter, a psychologist, is an in-depth look at “the inescapable power of in-laws.” Arguing that this universal aspect of intrafamily dynamics has been given short shrift (and consigned to the world’s chock-full-of-chestnuts joke bin), the British Apter searches both sides of the pond for illumination, interpreting the responses of 156 interview subjects in the U.S. and the U.K. while taking stock of her own experiences as a wife and mother. The result is something well beyond checkout-aisle platitudes: a keenly perceptive interpretation of the kinship structures, “fracture lines,” and recurrent emotions—resentment, ambivalence, acceptance—that are part and parcel of the in-law experience.
Fresh: A Perishable History
A dietary-cum-social history of the Mark Kurlansky/Michael Pollan sort, this smart, sweeping, and timely volume—appearing at a moment when buying locally and eating organically are fashionably responsible quests—considers the conundrums of industrial freshness. According to Freidberg, a Dartmouth professor, we all crave access to healthful, seasonal foodstuffs, yet we hunger equally for year-round convenience and value. The result: to open a refrigerator is to access a Pandora’s box of compromise and freighted trade. Cold storage, Freidberg argues, has altered tastes, damaged the environment, hurt the consumer, and helped facilitate the less-than-salutary shift from localism to globalism. The “stories” of six staples—beef, eggs, fruit, vegetables, milk, and fish—both reinforce her thesis and stand as discretely engaging narratives, each rendered with clarity and flair. Food, truly, for thought.
The Idler’s Glossary
Joshua Glenn and Mark Kingwell
This delightful chapbook proffers a puckish twofer: a whimsically learned defense of indolence and flaneurship—waged by scouring the philosophical/literary quiver and loosing darts of Schopenhauer, Byron, Bataille, Waugh, Lao-tzu, and others at that ageless bromide of the strong work ethic—and an engagingly etymological lexicon of loafing, past and present. Kingwell, a University of Toronto professor and prolific best-selling author, provides the former; Glenn, the columnist and Hermenaut editor/publisher, the latter. The tandem result—which splits the spiritual and stylistic differences between, say, The Devil’s Dictionary and Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow—is a morally agreeable study in contrasts: high-minded yet fair, droll yet purposeful, erudite yet engaging. The corrective poststructural conclusion? “The genius of idling is not its avoidance of work but rather its construction of a value system entirely independent of work.”