Saturday, June 11, 2022

Five top books about fragile worlds

Erin Swan was born in Manhattan and lived there for ten years until her family moved upstate, where she started writing stories and poems. She used her early adulthood to travel, write children’s books, and work for a literary agency before going to teach English in India and Thailand. Swan earned her MA from Teacher’s College at Columbia University and began teaching in New York’s public school system in 2008.

[ Q&A with Erin Swan; The Page 69 Test: Walk the Vanished Earth]

While teaching full-time, Swan attended the MFA program at the New School and graduated with a degree in fiction. Her work has been published in various journals, including Portland Review, Atticus Review, The South Carolina Review, and Inkwell Journal, and her stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net.

Walk the Vanished Earth is Swan's first novel.

At she tagged "five books that feature fragile worlds. Though they come from different genres, each one explores this tension between apparent weakness and actual strength, between our known world and others that may exist, if only we can discover how to part the curtain between them." One title on the list:
Girl in Landscape by Jonathan Lethem

Part sci-fi, part Western, and part post-apocalyptic dystopian dream, Girl in Landscape begins with disaster. Not only has Earth’s climate crumbled, but Pella Marsh’s mother has died from a brain tumor. Grieving and abruptly ousted from
political office, Pella’s father Clement whisks her and her siblings off to the Planet of the Archbuilders to attempt a fresh start. Here, they find a hot dry land populated by the structures of a failed civilization, semi-transparent “household deer” that skitter around the corners of their home, and the remaining Archbuilders themselves: furry, scaled creatures with twenty thousand languages at their command. It is 13-year-old Pella’s fierce will to survive and intense curiosity about her new environment that captured me most. Everything seems to be collapsing around her, but she resists all attempts to keep her fragile, whether it is the stupefying acclimatization pills being pushed on her or the dismissive attitude adults so often adopt towards the young.
Read about another entry on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue