For novelists, whose work typically takes at least a year (and often much longer) to produce, delivering an up-to-date depiction of contemporary life must be a maddeningly elusive goal. In the time it takes to write a novel that perfectly nails some new technologized form of connecting, the rest of us will most likely have left off using it and moved on to something new. Surely today no one remembers, let alone reads, Lucy Kellaway’s best-selling 2006 corporate satire Who Moved My Blackberry?
Some novelists beat this problem by sticking to historical fiction, a move that rescues, for example, a writer who married before the advent of social media from trying to accurately depict what courtship feels like in the age of Tinder. But more and more literary novelists now choose to move in the opposite temporal direction. Writers who once might have penned tender coming-of-age or immigrant-experience novels, who might once have devoted themselves to wacky satire or meticulously observed depictions of the way we live now, have opted instead to speculate on how we’ll live then—that is, in the near or distant future.
Daniel Wallace is one of those rare, wonderful writers who make it look easy. You find yourself chortling and sometimes laughing aloud as you breeze through his novels, which makes it possible to overlook the artistry and expertise that render his characters so vivid and his plots so engaging. It’s not so much what his characters experience but how they experience their world that makes them so utterly relatable and unforgettable.
“Chemistry” is a novel about an intelligent woman trying to find her place in the world. It has only the smallest pinches of action but generous measures of humor and emotion.
Hindsight is a funny thing, loaded with irony and regret and a kind of impossible nostalgia, a quality that should, by definition, require more than a few months to accumulate meaning. Think about politics, of course. Think about eggs. Eggs? Well, yes, because we’re talking about Lucky Peach, the recently-shuttered food magazine, and “All About Eggs,” the fourth and final cookbook by the editors of that publication, which came out in April.
So you read this last Lucky Peach cookbook, written by Rachel Khong with more than 50 ancillary contributors, in a kind of vertigo, flipping the pages — and sometimes the actual eggs — with a heady mixture of hunger, amusement and sadness. It is almost impossible not to find a double meaning spilled through the pages like curry sauce. This, of course, has always been part of the fun of Lucky Peach, a publication that was known for its mash-up assembly of excellent and irreverent writing about food, science and culture.