Books » Short Stories

The Fainting Room; Nutritionism; The World of the End

Short Stories

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The Fainting Room

Sarah Pemberton Strong

Ig Publishing, $15.95/paperback

Wealthy architect Ray meets manicurist Evelyn in a mostly empty row at the circus. Each recognizes that the other comes from and lives in a completely different world, but love does as it will. After a year of marriage, Evelyn's freaked out by Ray's moneyed lifestyle and hoity-toity friends, and in a misplaced effort to control something in their relationship, invites a troubled teen to live with them for the summer. An odd love triangle ensues, passion flares in all the wrong places, and secrets unravel. Sarah Pemberton Strong's second novel, The Fainting Room, is ornately constructed and colored, each line crafted as solidly as the overarching plot — which makes sense for an author who is also a poet. Just as you think you know where it's all going, another miniature car races in and releases a dozen more clowns you had no idea could fit so tightly inside. — Kirsten Akens

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Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice

Gyorgy Scrinis

Columbia University Press, $32.95/hardcover

Nutritionism — a term popularized by writer Michael Pollan, but originated by the author of this book — is the assumption that the value of food comes from the nutrients in it, and that the only purpose of eating is to fuel our bodies. Since most of us can't tell what nutrients are in which foods, we rely on experts — nutritionists — to tell us what foods are "good" and "bad." And here our troubles begin, because food science works by experimentation. "Superfoods," "toxic foods" and "processed foods with added nutrients" are some of the oddities with which people have had to contend. Gyorgy Scrinis is an Australian academic, but Nutritionism is a surprisingly clear and readable overview of food, diet and what we do and don't know about it. While not as simple as Pollan's "Eat food. Mostly plants. Not too much," Nutritionism provides background for the argument. Kel Munger

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The World of the End

Ofir Touché Gafla, translated by Mitch Ginsburg

Tor Books, $24.99/hardcover

Israeli novelist Ofir Touché Gafla answers the question, "Is this life all there is?" with a resounding "No" in The World of the End, a carefully braided novel that turns every apparent narrative dead-end into a brilliant plot twist. Ben Mendelssohn — who makes a living writing endings for other writers — is so bereft by the loss of his wife in a freak accident that he takes his own life. But when he arrives in the Other World, reuniting with his beloved Marian is not a simple task. It requires the assistance of a private afterlife investigator and a great deal of legwork that takes him through huge cities in which all eternity's dead live, and involves some people who are not quite dead yet. Defying genre expectations, Gafla's debut novel (he's since written several more, as yet untranslated) is a deep meditation on romantic love and two-fisted living. Kel Munger

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