Customers are ruthless at the Strand Bookstore one dollar carts. They will crawl in front of you, push their strollers into your knees, and give you looks that clearly say, “I don’t think you can even read. Go across the street to the movie store.” Okay, maybe that last part is in my head, but I’m telling you, it’s eat or be eaten. On my last trip, I managed to snag The Real Thing by Thomas Stoppard, The Human Stain by Philip Roth, and Wise Children by Angela Carter. All of which is to say, MoMA t-shirt wearing man who practically snatched Emerson from my hands: I win.
I read The Real Thing on the train ride home, but I haven’t dipped into Roth or Carter, yet. Nonetheless, I’ve been reminiscing about my first encounter with Carter via The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, her 1972 novel about a society whose reality is run (and severely altered) by machines. The hero sets out to kill the creator of these machines, Doctor Hoffman, and a fast-paced, high-action adventure ensues. While claimed by a lot of fancy schools of literature (including magical realism, post-modernism, and science fiction), it’s a futile exercise to put Carter into a box. Her work never fails to surprise. Perhaps most surprising about The Infernal Desire Machines is that the political undercurrent does not seem dated despite forty years of seeming progress. The parallels between Doctor Hoffman’s and modern media’s manipulations still hit close to home.
Bio: Erica Wright is the poetry editor at Guernica. Her “interview with John Ashbery”:https://www.guernicamag.com/interviews/507/houses_at_night_1/, “Houses at Night,” appeared in Guernica’s February 2008 issue. Read her last recommendation of writer David Markson “here”:https://www.guernicamag.com/blog/1802/rec_room_erica_wright_david_ma/.