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"My annual reading list is an exercise in moderation—that is, balancing a healthy dose of preselected classics with contemporary works that often make chance entrances into my life. Last summer, on a cross-country trip that included devourings of Justin Torres's then-forthcoming novel We the Animals (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011)—grabbed at random from a stack of galleys on my work desk—and Virginia Woolf's To the Lighthouse—part of my summer of the Woolf—I picked up Chris Adrian's second novel, The Children's Hospital, at Portland, Oregon, literary mecca Powell's Books. I'd heard of the book several years ago—it was released by McSweeney's in 2006—but hadn't actually come across a copy until the face-out shelf placement of the big, beautiful paperback volume caught my eye (yes, Powell's knows how to market the heck out of brilliant works, regardless of when they debuted). By the end of the first line, I was hooked on the surreal story: "I am the recording angel, doomed to watch." Set inside the magically unfixed walls of a children's hospital afloat on a post-apocalyptic sea, the story captures our human shortcomings, the frustrations—and sometimes terrors—of the body, and our struggles with spirituality, all with humor and gloriously detailed language informed by Adrian's work as a physician and his studies at Harvard Divinity School. Even with its more far-reaching fantastical elements, the book is imbued with such earthly wisdom that the whole story feels remarkably real, of the moment, of the world we live in."
Jean Hartig, associate editor of Poets & Writers Magazine, from New York, New York