What are you reading in August?

We dive into Katie Kitamura's latest novel, Intimacies, and revisit Tolkien's The Silmarillion

What are you reading in August?
Image: Del Rey

In our monthly book club, we discuss whatever we happen to be reading and ask everyone in the comments to do the same. What Are You Reading This Month?

Intimacies by Katie Kitamura

In her latest novel, one of contemporary fiction’s most gifted crafters of rhetorical minimalism depicts modern isolation and alienation with her signature spare touch. Katie Kitamura uses her protagonist’s job as an interpreter to explore the ways we disconnect from ourselves, and how hard it is to feel like the language we use to convey an emotion or experience is ever adequate. The unnamed narrator of Intimacies, a woman who leaves New York in order to start a new career as an interpreter at the International Criminal Court at the Hague, puts it this way while translating for a victim of horrific war crimes who is testifying before the court: “As I looked down at the witness, it prickled through me, the strangeness of speaking her words for her, the wrongness of using this I that was hers and not mine, this word that was not sufficiently capacious.” That thought haunts the events of this slim novel like a curse, the question of how we speak to and for others, as this expatriate begins a strange new romance, gets pulled into a high-stakes trial, and attempts to make connections and friends in a new city—it’s ruefully relatable and distancing in equal measure. [Alex McLevy]

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien

For some reason during quarantine, I became obsessed with these YouTube videos of a man reading the “complete travels of [insert Tolkien character here].” Hearing about all that lore drove me back to The Silmarillion for the first time since high school. What a treat it has been. Opposite the grandness of Tolkien’s Lord Of The Rings trilogy, it’s easy to forget how rich J.R.R. Tolkien’s other stories are, from the tale of Beren and Lúthien to the origins of Sauron, who you finally get to meet up close and personal. Diving into The Simarillion headfirst is something I couldn’t recommend more to fans of the LOTR books or movies. Tolkien’s language is so poetic and his history so profound that reacquainting myself with that world has been both a therapeutic and engrossing experience. Unsurprisingly, the book has made me even more excited for the upcoming The Lord Of The Rings Amazon series, especially after they released that image with the Two Trees of Valinor in the background. A show that prominently features Laurelin and Telperion? That’s exactly what the world needs right now. [Matt Schimkowitz]

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