Wal­rus Reads

The Walrus - - CONTENTS -

Books by Adam Stern­bergh, Sarah Mee­han Sirk, and Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton

The Blinds by Adam Stern­bergh

in adam stern­bergh’s third novel, the jour­nal­ist plays with a chill­ing ques­tion: What if you couldn’t re­mem­ber the worst thing you ever did? The thriller un­folds in the town of Caesura — “rhymes with tem­pura” — lo­cated at an un­known point in Texas. The dozens of res­i­dents have all had their mem­o­ries al­tered and are told that they agreed to the pro­ce­dure for one of two rea­sons: ei­ther they com­mit­ted a hor­rific crime, or they were wit­ness to one. No­body knows which group they fall in, and, with lim­ited ac­cess to the out­side world, they have no way to find out. Hence the town’s nick­name: the Blinds. But a com­mu­nity full of sleeper crim­i­nals is un­likely to stay calm for long. First, there’s a mur­der — a shoot­ing in a town that isn’t sup­posed to have any guns. Then, soon af­ter, there’s chaos. The mys­tery un­folds over five days, and Stern­bergh tells the story with verve and wit. How­ever, what makes The Blinds worth read­ing is not its ad­mirable twists and turns but its ru­mi­na­tions on self-im­age and re­demp­tion.

— Lau­ren Mckeon

The Dead Hus­band Project by Sarah Mee­han Sirk

the short sto­ries in Sarah Mee­han Sirk’s The Dead Hus­band Project are not happy ones. “Moon­man” ex­plores the end of the world, si­mul­ta­ne­ously eerie and com­fort­ing. “Bar­ba­dos”con­trasts a young cou­ple’s trop­i­cal va­ca­tion with the spec­tre of an HIV scare. Some of the sto­ries can feel trite — brash doom and gloom, not enough com­plex­ity. But the col­lec­tion still shines, thanks to the tit­u­lar story. In it, Sirk looks at the re­la­tion­ship be­tween two artists, Joe and Maureen, a hus­band and wife. The for­mer is a star of the art world, the lat­ter saw her ca­reer flash and be re­placed by moth­er­hood. But when Joe is di­ag­nosed with a ter­mi­nal ill­ness, Maureen makes plans to use his death for her own ends: his body will be pre­served and placed in a gallery, the corpse be­com­ing the per­fect artis­tic medium to res­ur­rect a dead ca­reer. Then Joe goes into re­mis­sion, and Maureen’s plans are shot. “She’d felt it crown­ing. She could al­ready see the front pages of the arts sec­tion, the cover of Art­fo­rum. She’d prac­ticed her ex­pres­sion,” Sirk writes. “She should feel like a mon­ster for think­ing it. But fuck it if it wasn’t true.” And it’s here — in the pic­ture of a woman ut­terly cal­lous yet com­pletely re­lat­able — where we see the au­thor’stremen­dous promise.

— Daniel Vi­ola

What Hap­pened by Hil­lary rod­ham Clin­ton

one year af­ter the elec­tion of Don­ald Trump, we don’t need any more re­minders that the pres­i­dent is a buf­foon. The ev­i­dence is con­stantly in our faces — and Twit­ter feeds — and fo­cus­ing on the mess is far less help­ful than hav­ing a dis­cus­sion about how best to fix the cur­rent po­lit­i­cal cli­mate. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton does some of the lat­ter in her new book, What Hap­pened, but it largely broaches only the ex­pected top­ics: there’s an en­tire chap­ter ded­i­cated to her emails, and other sec­tions are de­voted to rants about Bernie San­ders and for­mer FBI di­rec­tor James Comey. Where Clin­ton starts to re­visit her own mis­takes, she falls back on jabs at her ri­val (Trump “hardly went a sin­gle day on the cam­paign with­out say­ing some­thing of­fen­sive”). In its best mo­ments, the me­moir de­picts a Clin­ton who is emo­tion­ally open and in­tro­spec­tive — a side few of us have seen (“For the record, it hurts to be torn apart,” she writes). But what is sur­pris­ing is the idea that some­one with a stag­ger­ing amount of po­lit­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ence — and who em­bod­ies a con­tem­po­rary ideal for what a pow­er­ful woman should be — still strug­gles to find her foot­ing. Ul­ti­mately, What Hap­pened shows us that, even at the high­est lev­els of suc­cess, gen­der re­mains an is­sue.

— Al­li­son Baker

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