7 New and Trippy Books that Are Awesomely Confusing
What the fuck did you just read?
It’s a well-known fact that books have the power to transport you across time and space, but sometimes you finish a great read and you aren’t quite sure where it’s taken you. While this trippy sensation probably isn’t for the Jojo Moyes lovers out there, it is a thrill for readers who crave the bizarre, the outlandish and the flat-out confusing.
If you’re all about absurdists like Beckett, Murakami and Pynchon, then you need to get to a bookstore (or Amazon, if that’s your book-buying method of choice) because there are so many great books out right now that will make your mind melt. Between off-kilter realities, confounding characters and intricate word labyrinths, 2016 is shaping up to be “The Year of Strange Fiction” in the best possible way.
From short stories to thrillers, there’s a book for every absurdist-fiction junkie out there. If you’re looking for the literary equivalent of an M.C. Escher painting, then you’re reading the right article. Here are seven books that will have you wondering, “What the fuck did I just read?”
1. Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine, Fine by Diane Williams
This avant-garde collection of short stories will undoubtedly unnerve and perplex you. Despite the fact that each story is only about one or two pages long, they’re full of precise prose, intricate emotions and striking imagery. Williams’s uncanny ability to find the bizarre in the every day results in hauntingly poignant stories that broach suicide, failed marriages and loneliness with equal parts humor and heart. In short, these stories are not to be taken lightly. The Paris Review wisely advises, “Fine is most enjoyable if you submit to the whiplash.”
2. Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt
If you’re looking for something intriguing and mysterious, get your hands on the book Vanity Fair called “a supernatural road trip.” This otherworldly tale filled with cults, mediums and ghosts is told in suspenseful, alternating chapters. In one, Nat and Ruth navigate life as orphans living in the care of an abusive religious fanatic. In the other, set some time in the future, Ruth, mysteriously rendered mute, and her pregnant niece Cora walk across the state of New York for a purpose that has yet to be revealed. Between its dual narrative structure, complicated timeline, gripping plot and ghostly imagery, you’ll be up all night piecing this one together.
3. The Unfinished World: And Other Stories by Amber Sparks
While trying to describe this collection of short stories, words like inventive, arresting, weird and wonderful immediately come to mind. Featuring stories about space janitors, jazz babies and fever librarians, Sparks uses beautiful language to create extraordinary vignettes of emotionally complex characters who seem to live in a surprisingly close alternate universe. Roxanne Gay raves, “With each story, Sparks defies the known world in absolutely thrilling ways.” This is a collection everyone should read this year, whether you’re a fan of magic realism or not.
4. Sudden Death by Álvaro Enrigue
Every so often, a book comes along that is just as entertaining as it is puzzling, and this is certainly a book that fits that description. To give you a sense of Sudden Death’s peculiar plot, it begins with a tennis match between Italian artist Caravaggio and Spanish poet Francisco de Quevedo, which is attended by the likes of Mary Magdalene and Galileo. As if that wasn’t outlandish enough, the game ball is made from beheaded Anne Boleyn’s hair. Sudden Death is a hilarious, sharp and speculative novel that challenges everything you know about history, colonialism, art, humanity and just about everything else. The Wall Street Journal aptly deemed it “mind-bending.”
5. What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours by Helen Oyeyemi
This compulsively readable collection of intertwined short stories will engross you in its slightly askew realities. The New York Times “Book Review” captures Oyeyemi’s masterful ability to augment reality best, explaining “Oyeyemi so expertly melds the everyday, the fantastic and the eternal, we have to ask if the line between 'real' and 'unreal' is murkier than we imagined — or to what extent a line exists at all.” I don’t want to go into too much detail for fear of giving too much away, but trust me when I say Oyeyemi’s haunting stories will stay with you long after you finish reading them.
6. Hystopia by David Means
Described as “a dark acid trip of a novel” by the New York Times, this dystopian novel presents a chilling version of recent U.S. history. In Hystopia, it’s the 1960s. JFK is president in spite of several assassination attempts, the Vietnam War is in full swing, and a federal agency with the sole purpose of using drugs and therapy to erase traumas from veteran’s memories is priority number one. Though it’s a far-out read set in the not-too-distant past, many of the book’s events seem entirely plausible given the state of America today. It’s safe to say that you don’t have get high to be tripped out by this doped-up version of America.
7. I Am No One by Patrick Flannery
If you’re in the mood for something unnerving, check out the novel The Guardian called “psychologically baffling.” After a stint in England, Jeremy O’Keefe moves back to New York, where a bizarre sequence of events shakes him to his core; boxes containing copies of his online activity show up at his apartment, a young man starts following him, and his mom starts receiving slanderous phone calls. A contemporary take on George Orwell’s 1984 with a healthy dose of Pynchon-style paranoia thrown in for good measure, there’s intrusive surveillance, painful loneliness, and meditation on what it means to be free. You’ll get lost in its twists and turns, and you won’t want to put it down.