The Alt Into

The Alt Into

Mysterious tales on Barcelona’s streets

Katie Cusack 

Spanish novelist Carlos Ruiz Zafón has a way with words that makes me so jealous, so blown away that sometimes while reading his work, I have to put it down and take a lap. Not a bad idea on its own since I seem to blow through his novels in a matter of hours. It’s heart-wrenchingly good. His series of novels categorized as “The Cemetery of Forgotten Books” have twists and turns that even Stephen King has called “the real deal” and have an overlying theme of the protagonist’s (at times deadly) love for literature. On top of intricate sub-plots and in-depth character building, Zafón lays out the history of Spain and its devastating Civil War with humanizing details of the war’s effect on family, society and culture in Barcelona. And don’t even get me started on the way he sets the scenes–eerily and meticulously detailed to put you right onto the streets of the gothic Catalan city.  

The series of books are only referred to as such because of the author’s dedication to the setting and general time period. While the three books feature overlaps in the plotline, characters and theme, their stories are vastly unique. If you’re looking for mystery, betrayal and some downright horrific characters that are sure to haunt your dreams, pick up The Shadow of the Wind, The Angel’s Game, and/or The Prisoner of Heaven on your next visit to the bookstore. You won’t regret it.


Realities of Eviction 

Jaya Sundaresh

This week, I’m reading Evicted, by Matthew Desmond, a Harvard sociologist and MacArthur “Genius” grant winner.

I picked this book up before my hair appointment at the mall, off the recommendation of some folks on Twitter, and was immediately hooked. It’s been a while since I’ve thrown myself into literary nonfiction, or this kind of long-form journalism, and I’m very glad I did.

The book follows eight families in Milwaukee in their struggle to remain housed. I’m not far into the book, but I’m already incredibly absorbed by Lamarr, a man with no feet who watches over the neighborhood boys, who is at risk of being evicted by Sherrena, one of the landlords who Desmond also follows.

Most of the books and essays I’ve been reading lately are more intricate than this. They involve copious note-taking, they involve lots of thinking and sweating out the ideas in the margins. Evicted is a story; it is told like a story, and unfolds with a particular narrative. I think there’s a lot of worth in getting wrapped up in a good story, once in a while.

Next on the reading list: How to Kill a City: Gentrification, Inequality, and the Fight for a Neighborhood.


By Luke Stoddard Nathan 

In the summer, I enjoy Gose, a salty, sour wheat beer that apparently originated in Germany. I enjoy it while wondering if it is actually bad. A couple years ago, Thrillist ran a story titled, “Craft Beer is Dead. Gose Killed It.” The author ventured to a craft beer shop and purchased a couple varieties. “Served warmer, they tasted like spicy sweat,” he wrote. “Served cold, they tasted like cold sweat.”

I could see how I might find myself feeling that way, but at least for now, I do not. (I’m not sure I can think of another instance in which I savored a thing while simultaneously knowing that I could–easily, without warning–come to the conclusion that it in fact tastes like perspiration.) Anyway, the other night I drank Evil Twin Brewing’s Mission Gose outside at DeFazio’s Pizzeria in Troy, an experience I’d like to repeat in short order. 
Huck Finn’s Playland 
By David Howard King
Look, I’ve never been to Disney World and the idea of me ever being at a theme park seemed almost impossible at one point in my life. You’re still likely to find me dressed in a gloomy black t-shirt with an unintentional scowl on my face–(my wife has explained that I have a serious case of what they call resting bitch face) but becoming a dad has in many ways made me fall in love with the world in ways I never was previously. Watching my three-year-old daughter work up the courage to brave rides I never would have dared to board, fearlessly charge back to contraptions that give me vertigo and announce proudly she did it all by herself has helped me understand parts of the world and human behavior I never did. I’m happy the rides that gave so many people joy have been preserved and are in running condition–not because I have any sentimental connection to them but because I’m fairly sure my daughter soon will. 


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