1) Did anyone read this month’s pick?
2) Why do we have a book club if no one ever reads the book?
3) Do you think we would have liked the book had we read it?
4) What would you guess the book is about?
5) How would we have felt about the characters?
6) Would we have found the ending to be a satisfying conclusion to the story?
7) Should we just read The Help again?
"Reminiscent of J. Robert Lennon’s Pieces for the Left Hand, the chapters are no longer than a page; sometimes less, and each narrative thread carries with it a sharp twang. Understudies felt like ease dropping on a conversation in the powder room of your local whorehouse.”
Michael Jauchen writes about Understudies at 3:AM Magazine:
"Mangla takes us into a deadpan, sharply-observed novel about the sadness pervading a contemporary world fixated on simulation and celebrity. Like so much of America, the small town where Understudies takes place exists under a mediated, televisual spell. Everyone’s chasing fame, desperate for that particular brand of social capital endemic to the internet age."
I think it’s okay for young writers to be word-drunk and to be in love with the sound. I was word-drunk and I loved playing with sounds, but eventually you have to tell the story. Otherwise, it’s just beautiful noise without a tune.
– Mark Richard (from BOMB Magazine)
Understudies t-shirts at the Society6 store (free shipping through Monday). There are also onesies for the highly literate baby in your life.
The King Khan & BBQ Show – “I’ll Be Loving You”
No Age – “Teen Creeps”
The Orwells – “In My Bed”
Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – “Senator”
King Krule – “Ocean Bed”
Mac Demarco – “Baby’s Wearing Blue Jeans”
Beach Fossils – “Shallow”
Yuck – “The Wall”
The Replacements – “Unsatisfied”
In America, now, oblivion, literary failure, obscurity, neglect — all the great moments of artistic tragedy and misunderstanding — still occur, but the natural conditions for the occurrence are in a curious state of camouflage, like those decorating ideas in which wood is painted to look like paper and paper to look like wood. A genius may indeed go to his grave unread, but he will hardly have gone to it unpraised. Sweet, bland commendations fall everywhere upon the scene; a universal, if somewhat lobotomized, accommodation reigns. A book is born into a puddle of treacle; the brine of hostile criticism is only a memory.
Early DeLillo story (1966) featured on the Kenyon Review website:
They look in the shop windows. Mannequins in fur and diamonds. Ladies’ shoes atop red velvet. An eight million dollar necklace. She whirls and pirouettes, dreaming of inaugural balls or being presented to the Queen. A few middle-aged people stare at her and shake their heads. What is the world coming to. She giggles and takes the boy’s hand and they skip away to the park. They walk in the park. Leaves are falling. It is that golden time of day. There are boats on the lake. The sun is going down behind the Dakota Apartments or the London Hilton and she chases a squirrel across the grass in the soft darkening afternoon.
My novel Understudies comes out today. I love this book dearly, and I hope you’ll consider checking it out. It’s available for purchase through most retailers, including Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Outpost19 (free shipping!), Powell’s, Kobo, IndieBound.
"Funny, moving, perceptive, artful—these are the first words that came to mind when I tried to describe Understudies to a friend. And then, to better capture its spirit, I began reading it aloud and marveled all over again at Ravi Mangla’s ability to tell us, with precision and wit, what deserves to be known.” (Joanna Scott)
"Ravi Mangla’s delightingly tight, micro-chaptered Understudies is an unassumingly beautiful and moving debut. It’s elegantly and hilariously precise about everything it touches, and it touches almost everything human.” (Gary Lutz)
"Ravi Mangla’s Understudies is a brilliant meditation on the private cost of celebrity, the longing to transcend the ordinary, and the seductive nature of performance. Darkly funny, sharply-observed, and terrifically moving, Understudies is an essential debut.” (Laura van den Berg)
"With the absurdist realism of A.M. Homes and the perverse randomness of Miranda July, Ravi Mangla’s Understudies asks ‘is the unacknowledged life worth living,’ and—in a prose as original as the novel itself—answers, definitively, yes.” (Courtney Maum)
(Thanks to Brad Beatson for designing this unbelievably awesome poster!)