Further Reading is a new feature on The Booklist Reader, designed to provide readers’ advisory for today’s headlines.
Crowds have been very much in the news this past week: crowds large and small, violent and calm, paid and unpaid. For a terrifying (and terrifyingly well-written) look at the danger of crowds, read John Seabrook in The New Yorker. For more fanciful takes, read one of the novels below.
Day of the Locust, by Nathanael West
The definitive, classic novel about the madness of crowds. You can read the whole thing online for free, or buy an attractive paperback edition from New Directions (pictured)that includes West’s equally jaundiced Day of the Locust and a lovely introductory essay by Jonathan Lethem.
The Flamethrowers, by Rachel Kushner
There are two central threads to The Flamethrowers: Italy in 1977, the crest of the movement, and New York at that time, a period that has long fascinated me, when the city had a Detroit-like feel, was drained of money and its manufacturing base, and piled up with garbage. Parts of downtown became liberated zones of abandonment, populated by artists and criminals. The blackout of 1977 has a special place in my heart—the “bad” blackout, compared to 1965, the “good” blackout, when everyone in the housing projects behaved, an event whose textures DeLillo rendered so memorably in Underworld.
Mao II, by Don DeLillo
“The future belongs to crowds,” DeLillo writes in the prologue to his second novel, which kicks off with a mass wedding at Yankee Stadium and goes on to explore the effects of political terror on American society. (It’s super funny, too.)
The Terranauts, by T. C. Boyle
This book, which centers around a group of attractive scientists trapped together in a biosphere, contains a terrifying passage about a concert gone awry.
Woke Up Lonely, by Fiona Maazel
A troubled cult leader proves irresistible to scores of lonely, disaffected, and petty Americans, who gather in warehouses to hear him speak. Is he a terrorist or a sham? The U.S. government assumes the former and recruits the guru’s ex wife to gather intel. This book is also about the Age of Terror, but isn’t everything these days?