"Kiki Petrosino’s Witch Wife is a collection of poems about maternity and partnership and ambivalence and the odd, universal condition of living in a body. It feels beautifully humid, full of strange juxtapositions—like a tropical conservatory in the middle of winter. Petrosino writes better than anyone about crying in public: 'I’ll never be so lonely again, or young enough / to weep in my clothes on the street.'”
"Lucas Mann’s Lord Fear imagines elegy as literature: It’s a younger brother’s attempt to reconstruct the addiction of an older brother who died from a heroin overdose. Mann draws on interviews, memory, and his brother’s journals — and rather than resolving any of the paradoxes of his brother’s life, he simply draws us deeper into them."
Good Morning, Midnight
"Jean Rhys’s Good Morning, Midnight is a masterful portrait of claustrophobic self-destruction: an aging woman adrift in Paris, who has decided to hole up in a garret apartment and drink herself to death. It’s excruciating and encompassing — at moments, bleakly hilarious — laying an unflinching finger on a certain pulsing vein of despair."
Cassandra at the Wedding
"Cassandra at the Wedding, by Dorothy Baker, is a sharp, funny, unapologetic novel about sisterhood and possessive love, suffused with the bright light and dry winds of the California interior. Its narrator is wickedly smart and increasingly unhinged — her voice is prickly and virtuosic, often hilarious, until you’re hit with the deep ache of her impossible desires."
"The essays in Greg Pardlo’s Air Traffic are about youth and family and race and addiction and masculinity. The title essay recounts his father’s involvement in the infamous 1981 air controllers’ strike, and the final essay describes his family’s experience on the reality TV show Intervention. But it’s really Pardlo’s voice, restless and contradictory and self-effacing, that sustains the peculiar energy of this collection."
Leslie Jamison is the author of the bestselling essay collection The Empathy Exams and the acclaimed novel The Gin Closet. She is a contributing writer for the New York Times Magazine, and her work has appeared in The Atlantic, Harper's, the New York Times Book Review, and the Virginia Quarterly Review. She directs the graduate nonfiction program at Columbia University.
Near the beginning of The Recovering, she sets herself the challenge of making writing about recovery as compelling as addiction. It spoils nothing to reveal that she succeeds resoundingly. But what an enormous challenge. When she enters the legendary Iowa Writers' Workshop, it's a first step towards becoming not only a professional writer, but also a serious drinker, as did Carver, Cheever, Berryman, and so many more before her, such that writing and drinking seem unavoidably intertwined. The Recovering reveals what this has meant not only to Jamison as a writer and a person, but also to our culture: that creation and self-destruction have been fused — and, ultimately, that they don't have to be. There is no judgement here; but rather, deep empathy for her compatriots in recovery, other writers, and herself.
Jamison has chosen four books that inspire her. Some touch on addiction and its aftermath; all are spectacularly written.