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Last month, I was struck by a polemic/review written by Olivia Kan-Sperling in N+1 diagnosing a tendency in modern zeitgeisty literature towards safe, interior worlds of realism, "beautiful" (though never satisfyingly elaborated) worlds stippled with "normal" characters discussing "safely, universally 'relatable,' obviously 'natural'" topics ad nauseam. This is true, though who doesn't love a self-consciously bourgeois dramedy of manners from time to time? That's not the real meat of Kan-Sperling's critique, however; hers is one of style, as the prose in those big-time litfic novels tends to mirror the over-sanded plots and characters.

In today’s Anglophone literature, there are few fancy sentences, little that is “difficult,” nothing to prevent the reader from mind-merging with the narrator, rather than appreciating literature as the product of a foreign human consciousness mediated through an alien technology (writing).

These observations are nestled within a review of a book, and an appreciation of the linguistic stylings of fanfiction as the inverse of Rooney-wave literature, that bucks the trend. Esther Yi's debut novel Y/N tells the story of an unnamed narrator who is swept up into an all-consuming obsession with Moon, a member of a K-pop boy band only faintly veiled as a BTS stand-in. The narrator begins writing romantic fanfiction centered on "Y/N," which is shorthand within the community for "Your Name," a placeholder allowing the reader to center themselves within the story without having to perform any messy nomenclatural gymnastics. Lines blur, the limits and transcendent possibilities of human language are explored, and Yi riffs on the nature of fame and celebrity, though most importantly, the book is composed of ambitious, occasionally idiosyncratic, sentences.

And so we're reading it for November's edition of Defector Reads A Book. It's been a while, and we've done a lot of older books lately, so I hope you'll be excited to join us for a hypermodern, kind of spooky new DRAB when we meet on Tuesday, November 14. This one might be slightly harder to obtain than previous books, and though you'll want to re-read many paragraphs, it's not a very long read. We'll include reminders in the Cipher as the weeks go. Happy reading!

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