Monday, 6:00 pm EST - 7:30 pm EST December 11, 2023
The Center for Fiction
December 2023 Selection:
Pay As You Go by Eskor David Johnson
The Nightlighters is a free, in-person reading group for members of The Center for Fiction! Led by rotating staff members, The Nightlighters read and discuss a wide variety of contemporary fiction. Members are welcome to join every month or drop in for individual sessions. Meetings take place at 6pm ET on the second Monday of the month here at The Center for Fiction.
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Pay As You Go
By Eskor David Johnson
Published by McSweeney's
Shortlisted for The Center for Fiction 2023 First Novel Prize
New to town and delusionally confident, Slide imagined himself living in a glossy building with doormen and sweeping views of the skyline. Instead he’s landed in a creaking, stuffy apartment with two roommates: a loping giant who hardly leaves his room, and a weight-obsessed neurotic who keeps no fewer than forty-seven lamps throughout the house, blazing at all hours.
Unwilling to accept this fate, Slide—a barber with an opaque past—embarks on a quest for the perfect apartment, pinballing through the sprawling, madcap city of Polis and its endless procession of neighborhoods. As he bounces from foldout couch to disaster-relief tent, falling in with some tough types, Slide begins to realize that he’s going to have to scratch and claw just to claim a place for himself in this world—let alone a place with in-unit laundry.
An exuberant, fantastical odyssey, Pay As You Go wonders if what we’re searching for is ever really out there. Its pages—surreal, biting, and teeming with life—announce the startling talents of Eskor David Johnson, who knows that all any of us really want is a place to rest our head.
By Hilary Leichter
Published by HarperCollins
October 2023 Selection
Annie, Edward, and their young daughter, Rose, live in a cramped apartment. One night, without warning, they find a beautiful terrace hidden in their closet. It wasn’t there before, and it seems to only appear when their friend Stephanie visits. A city dweller’s dream come true! But every extra bit of space has a hidden cost, and the terrace sets off a seismic chain of events, forever changing the shape of their tiny home, and the shape of the world.
Terrace Story follows the characters who suffer these repercussions and reverberations: the little family of three, their future now deeply uncertain, and those who orbit their fragile universe. The distance and love between these characters expands limitlessly, across generations. How far can the mind travel when it’s looking for something that is gone? Where do we put our loneliness, longing, and desire? What do we do with the emotions that seem to stretch beyond the body, beyond the boundaries of life and death?
Based on the National Magazine Award–winning story, Hilary Leichter’s profound second novel asks how we nurture love when death looms over every moment. From one of our most innovative and daring writers, Terrace Story is an astounding meditation on loss, a reverie about extinction, and a map for where to go next..
By Itamar Vieira Junior
Published by Verso Books
Translated by Johnny Lorenz
September 2023 Selection
‘I heard our grandmother asking what we were doing. “Say something!” she demanded, threatening to tear out our tongues. Little did she know that one of us was holding her tongue in her hand.’
Deep in Brazil’s neglected Bahia hinterland, two sisters find an ancient knife beneath their grandmother’s bed and, momentarily mystified by its power, decide to taste its metal. The shuddering violence that follows marks their lives and binds them together forever.
Heralded as a new masterpiece, this fascinating and gripping story about the lives of subsistence farmers in Brazil’s poorest region, three generations after the abolition of slavery, is at once fantastic and realist, covering themes of family, spirituality, slavery and its aftermath, and political struggle.
By Jen Beagin
Published by Scribner
August 2023 Selection
Greta lives with her friend Sabine in an ancient Dutch farmhouse in Hudson, New York. The house is unrenovated, uninsulated, and full of bees. Greta spends her days transcribing therapy sessions for a sex coach who calls himself Om. She becomes infatuated with his newest client, a repressed married woman she affectionately refers to as Big Swiss.
One day, Greta recognizes Big Swiss’s voice in town and they quickly become enmeshed. While Big Swiss is unaware Greta has eavesdropped on her most intimate exchanges, Greta has never been more herself with anyone. Her attraction to Big Swiss overrides her guilt, and she’ll do anything to sustain the relationship…
“A fantastic, weird-as-hell, super funny novel” (Bustle), Big Swiss is both a love story and a deft examination of infidelity, mental health, sexual stereotypes, and more—from an amazingly talented, singular voice in contemporary fiction..
By Emma Cline
Published by Random House
July 2023 Selection
Summer is coming to a close on the East End of Long Island, and Alex is no longer welcome.
A misstep at a dinner party, and the older man she’s been staying with dismisses her with a ride to the train station and a ticket back to the city.
With few resources and a waterlogged phone, but gifted with an ability to navigate the desires of others, Alex stays on Long Island and drifts like a ghost through the hedged lanes, gated driveways, and sun-blasted dunes of a rarefied world that is, at first, closed to her. Propelled by desperation and a mutable sense of morality, she spends the week leading up to Labor Day moving from one place to the next, a cipher leaving destruction in her wake.
Taut, propulsive, and impossible to look away from, Emma Cline’s The Guest is a spellbinding literary achievement.
The World and All That It Holds
By Aleksandar Hemon
Published by FSG
June 2023 Inaugural Selection
As the Archduke Franz Ferdinand arrives in Sarajevo one June day in 1914, Rafael Pinto is busy crushing herbs and grinding tablets behind the counter at the pharmacy he inherited from his estimable father. It’s not quite the life he had expected during his poetry-filled student days in libertine Vienna, but it’s nothing a dash of laudanum from the high shelf, a summer stroll, and idle fantasies about passersby can’t put in perspective.
And then the world explodes. In the trenches in Galicia, fantasies fall flat. Heroism gets a man killed quickly. War devours all that they have known, and the only thing Pinto has to live for are the attentions of Osman, a fellow soldier, a man of action to complement Pinto’s introspective, poetic soul; a charismatic storyteller; Pinto’s protector and lover.
Together, Pinto and Osman will escape the trenches, survive near-certain death, tangle with spies and Bolsheviks. Over mountains and across deserts, from one world to another, all the way to Shanghai, it is Pinto’s love for Osman—with the occasional opiatic interlude—that keeps him going..
About this series
Whether you’re looking to catch up on great novels or you’re interested in exploring a new writer or literary period, our reading groups offer high-level literary discussion led by experts in the field.
Members Only: The LiterariansFree
Wednesday, 12:30 pm EST - 1:30 pm EST December 20, 2023
John Banville and His Many Worlds of Narrative with William Mottolese
Five Sessions Thursdays, 6:30 pm EST - 8:00 pm EST January 4 to April 25, 2024
Under the Influence: Reading and Journaling Teju Cole with Elizabeth Howard
Five Sessions Tuesdays, 6:30 pm EST - 8:00 pm EST January 9 to March 12, 2024
1000 Words: A Communal Writing Event with Jami Attenberg and Hannah Tinti$30
Wednesday, 6:00 pm EST January 10, 2024
Beyond Cli-Fi with Outlandish: Black and Indigenous Nature Lit with Benje Williams
Four Sessions Wednesdays, 7:00 pm EST - 8:30 pm EST January 10 to April 17, 2024
Contemporary African Novels with Nana Brew-Hammond
Five Sessions Wednesdays, 6:30 pm EST - 8:00 pm EST January 10 to May 1, 2024
Tolstoy's "Master and Man" and a Cocktail with Pam Newton$30
Thursday, 6:30 pm EST - 8:00 pm EST January 11, 2024
Hidden in Plain Sight: Reading Elena Ferrante's Neapolitan Novels with Thais Vitorelli
Four Sessions Tuesdays, 6:00 pm EST - 7:30 pm EST January 16 to April 9, 2024
The Short Stories of James Baldwin with Regina A. Bernard
Once a week Mondays, 6:00 pm EST - 7:30 pm EST January 22 to March 11, 2024