Here’s what I suspect: T Kira Madden’s Long Live the Tribe of Fatherless Girls is the forerunner of a new phase of creative non-fiction. That paragraph is from the memoir’s introduction. You might spot shades of Renata Adler or Elizabeth Hardwick in those confident, descriptive sentences, but with the time shifts and object fixations that give this book a lurking instability all its own.
Roxane Gay’s Hunger is very, very good—the rare memoir that doubles as page-turner. I’m writing this on a flight (Gay’s passages on airplane issues are some of her best: the seatbelt extenders, having to buy two tickets) and the woman across the aisle is reading Bad Feminist. “Book Twins!” she just said happily. This never happens. That Gay has reached so many is testament to her skill with empathetic connection. She writes early in Hunger that her “life is split in two, cleaved not so neatly. There is the before and after. Before I gained weight. After I gained weight. Before I was raped. After I was raped.”
Years ago, I found Justin Torres’s We the Animals in a box of free galleys at an after-school center in Brooklyn. Over time, the book became a lodestar for me, though I’m still not sure what it is. A novella, maybe, whose brief, titled vignettes reveal a family in crisis; or a bildungsroman of a boy discovering his queer identity; or perhaps, like other great, short, chaptered novels, it doubles as a poetry collection.
My OCD (and we’re talking diagnosed, not topic-sentence short-hand for fussy) tends to manifest harmlessly. I like counting bottles above bars over and over until the last one in the row is divisible by my age; at thirty-two, this is proving quite difficult. I take an occasional Klonopin to sleep if I can’t stop picturing, say, the lesser Greek gods frolicking in vivid 3-D above my bed for hours. Lately, I fear that I’m going to throw a glass of water in someone’s face, so I spend restaurant meals clutching tablecloths and suffering through awkward ideations that feel more real than reality. These things pass. But a pernicious, decade-long symptom is my desire—no, my need—to be kissed on New Year’s Eve at midnight.