Unique Writing: 3 Books That Offer Fresh Forms of Prose

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Tired of the same old, narrative style? This week we offer three books that dive deeper and offer fresh prose styles, thanks to recommendations from our friends at City Lights Books in San Francisco. These books brilliantly employ unique methods of writing to bring their stories to life.

One of the country’s largest independent bookstores and publishers, City Lights also has the distinction of being the nation’s first all-paperback store. It’s been five decades since the Beatnicks discovered Jack Kerouac at this book lover’s landmark, which is why the store masthead reads, “A Literary Meetingplace Since 1953.”

This week’s selections are:

Counternarratives by John Keene (New Directions, 2015)

counternarratives-john-keene-coverBookseller Tân Khánh Cao says:

“If I had to read one book over and over again for the rest of my life, I would choose John Keene’s Counternarratives. The pieces in this book work as individual stories and as combined tales because Keene uses a different form for each story. This variation of juxtaposed forms is essential to the power of each narrative, as it works both on a conscious and subconscious level. This is not a gimmick, either; it works very precisely. Keene’s approach gives this work a visceral quality like no other and on top of which, this is astonishingly beautiful writing.”

Oreo by Fran Ross (Northeastern University Press, 1974; New Directions, 2015)

oreo-fran-ross-coverBookseller Layla Gibbon says:

“This is the best book I’ve read in years. It’s a truly hilarious, surreal, anarchic and sharp as knives coming-of-age novel, which didn’t find an audience when originally published in 1974. There are just so many ideas, diagrams, and varying forms of prose contained within that it’s hard to summarize in brief why you should read this, but you absolutely should. The book manages to lampoon race, religion, advertising, social mores and the American life with a Black superhero teenage girl leading the way. It’s a truly remarkable read and it’s a real tragedy that this was Ross’ only book.”

The Complete Stories by Clarice Lispector and Benjamin Moser (New Directions, 2015)

the-complete-stories-clarice-lispector-benjamin-moser-coverBookseller Cassie Duggan says:

“Clarice Lispector took me by complete surprise and forced me to reconsider the capabilities of short fiction. Reading her is much like going in and out of consciousness; bouts of gripping reality intertwine with evocative textual blackouts, all accomplished with the swirl of words on the page. Long-awaited and beautifully translated, her stories collected in their entirety read like an incantation commanding us into her charming and dreamy trance. Let each story bewitch, tease, and trick you. There is simply no other way to experience this prose.”


figured it all out too late. He got his degree in Psychology and realized years later that he wanted to write for a living. He now has 16+ years of digital and print journalism experience and currently entertains an ongoing love affair with the greatest literary classics (he savored every page of "War and Peace" and thought it could've been longer, and he will finish Proust's "In Search of Lost Time"). He also loves crossword puzzles, tennis, the outdoors, and working on numerous novels. One of these days, one will get picked up...and when it does, the world will make a little more sense.

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