Culture & Criticism Since 2003
Borderline marks a remarkable debut by fantasy author Mishell Baker. The story features a problem that is epidemic in the world today, but one that nonetheless oft-times remains hidden – borderline personality disorder. In this disorder, mood instability causes volatility and unpredictability in relationships, with those afflicted usually also suffering from concurrent narcissistic personality disorder. The result is a person whose words and motives can’t be trusted – they simply lack empathy and are all about ‘them.’ And that is the ground that Baker tills with her story. Here, we meet Millie – a cynical and dark filmmaker whose negativity is only enhanced by a grave physical disability that she brought on herself when an attempt at suicide went awry. But a year after trying to kill herself, Millie gets a chance at redemption when she ventures into the Arcadia Project (this secret organization that controls entry into a parallel world populated by creatures straight from myth and fairy tales). As Millie enters the Arcadia Project, she hovers at the edge of two worlds about to wage war on each other, vying for control of the universe. As I said in my opening sentence to this column, Borderline is a remarkable first novel: note-worthy for its deep and compelling characters that adeptly straddle that invisible line that separates between reality from fantasy while simultaneously allowing us to examine the minefields of the human psyche from the relative safety of ‘fiction.’ And that, in the end, is what’s best about Borderline: it manages to open the door on a deeply destructive disorder and get us taking about it in terms of our own personality traits. As well as being a roller-coaster ride that enthralls and entertains, this book is literature with a purpose.
The acclaimed Hirshberg hits a home-run with Good Girls, the sequel to Motherless Child. The story here is rich and evocative, focusing on college student Rebecca – the person everyone turns to when they are in trouble. But this brutally heavy burden eventually takes its toll, propelling her head-long into a world where the living and the dead often wear the very same face. Gripping characters and plot with more twists and turns than a San Francisco street make this novel one of the most original we’ve seen so far in 2016.
This is a book everyone with a personal computer or smart phone should read, because it serves as a reality check and sharp slap in the face. In essence, the point of this book is to say that we might not know everything we think we know. In this age of “surf Google now,” everyone is an expert by virtue of the instant ability to click for answers. But as Lynch (University of Connecticut) reminds us, this is only surface knowledge. In order to get to the core, one must ask questions and dig deeper – to that point where you come to understand the why and how behind the answer. Lynch’s treatise shows us that constantly forsaking the effort to dig and analyze in favor of quick information is a recipe for disaster that too often results in impulsive half-formed decisions. As I said, this is a must read book with many layers. But I can’t help but wonder: In the smart-phone age when everyone is looking for data capsules that fit within a 2 by 4 inch screen, have we’ve collectively gone beyond the ability to act on the message?