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OUTLINE, Rachel Cusk (2014)

Outline is a novel in ten con- versations, an autofiction. Spare and lucid, it follows a novelist teaching a course in creative writing over an oppressively hot summer in Athens. She leads her student in storytelling exercises.

She meets other writers for dinner. She goes swimming in the Ionian Sea with her seatmate from the place. The people she encounters speak volubly about themselves, their fantasies, anxieties, pet theories, regrets, and longings. And through these disclosures, a portrait of the narrator is drawn by contrast, a portrait of a woman learning to face a great loss.

NW, Zadie Smith (2012)

The novel takes its title from the NW postcode area in North- West London, the setting of the novel. The novel is experimental and follows four different char- acters living in London, shifting between first and third person, stream-of-consciousness, screen- play-style dialogue and other narrative techniques in an attempt to reflect the polyphonic nature of contemporary urban life.

THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME, Mark Haddon (2003)

Fifteen-year-old Christopher John Francis Boone becomes absorbed in the mystery of a dog’s demise, me- ticulously investigating through diagrams, timetables, maps and maths problems. If anything it’s a novel about difference, about be- ing an outsider, about seeing the world in a surprising and reveal- ing way. Haddon’s fascinating por- trayal of an unconventional mind was published simultaneously in separate editions for adults and children.

BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME, Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015)

Between the World and Me is written as a letter to the author’s teenage son about the feelings, symbolism, and realities associated with being Black in the United States. Coates recapitulates American history and explains to his son the “racist violence that has been woven into American culture.” Coates draws from an abridged, autobiographical account of his youth in Baltimore, detailing the ways in which institutions like the school, the police, and even “the streets” discipline, endanger, and threaten to disembody Black men and women. The work takes structural and thematic inspiration from James Baldwin’s 1963 epistolary book The Fire Next Time. Unlike Baldwin, Coates sees white supremacy as an indestructible force, one that Black Americans will never evade or erase, but will always struggle against.

EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE, Jonathan Safran Foer (2005)

Nine-year-old Oskar Schell is an inventor, amateur entomologist, Francophile, letter writer, pacifist, natural historian, percussionist, romantic, Great Explorer, jeweller, detective, vegan, and collector of butterflies. When his father is killed in the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre, Oskar sets out to solve the mystery of a key he discovers in his father’s closet. It is a search which leads him into the lives of strangers, through the five boroughs of New York, into history, to the bombings of Dresden and Hiroshima, and on an inward journey which brings him ever closer to some kind of peace.

WHITE TEARS, Hari Kunzru (2017)

Two twenty-something New Yorkers. They have one thing in common: an obsession with music. Seth is desperate to reach for the fu- ture. Carter is slipping back into the past. When Seth accidentally records an unknown singer in a park, Carter sends it out over the Internet, claiming it’s a long lost 1920s blues recording by a musician called Charlie Shaw. When an old collector contacts them to say that their fake record and their fake bluesman are ac- tually real, the two young white men, accompanied by Carter’s trou- bled sister Leonie, spiral down into the heart of the nation’s darkness, encountering a sup- pressed history of greed, envy, revenge, and exploitation.

THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS, Ursula K. Le Guin (1969)

What if there were no gender — if humans only took on male or female characteristics when they went into heat once a month, and sex was kept separate from everything else? The Left Hand of Darkness is a part of the Hainish Cycle, a series of novels and short sto- ries by Le Guin set in the fiction- al Hainish universe. The Left Hand of Darkness was among the first books in the genre now known as feminist science fiction and is the most famous examination of androg- yny in science fiction.

CHROMA, A BOOK OF COLOUR, Derek Jarman (1993)

Chroma is a meditation on the color spectrum by the celebrated late artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman. From the explosions of image and color in In The Shadow of the Sun, The Last of England, The Garden and Wittgenstein, to the somber blacks of his collages and tar paintings, Jarman has consistently used color in unprecedented ways, making his ideas on the subject of interest to filmmakers, film audiences, artists and students alike.

ZEN AND THE ART OF MOTORCYCLE MAINTENANCE, Robert Pirsig (1974)

This book is an examination of how we live, a meditation on how to live better set around the narration of a summer motorcycle trip across America’s Northwest, undertaken by a father and his son. It is a work of fictionalized autobiography, and is the first of Pirsig’s texts in which he explores his Metaphysics of Quality.

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Dirk Deblauwe — dirk.deblauwe@hogent.be
Thomas Desmet — thomas.desmet@hogent.be
Jurgen Maelfeyt — jurgen.maelfeyt@hogent.be

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