A 'completely hypnotic' book to spend the afternoon with

Every week, The Thread checks in with booksellers around the country about their favorite books of the moment. This week, we spoke with Vanessa Martini, a bookseller at the legendary City Lights bookstore in San Francisco.

'New People' by Danzy Senna
'New People' by Danzy Senna
Courtesy of publisher

This summer was flooded with must-not-miss fiction, but bookseller Vanessa Martini wants to make sure one title doesn't get lost in the rush: Danzy Senna's "New People."

The book opens in 90s Brooklyn, and follows Maria and her fiancee Khalil. She's a grad student, he's in the early tech boom. As the book declares, the couple are "King and Queen of the Racially Nebulous Prom."

Maria, though, finds herself drawn to a poet she meets out one night, and "proceeds to do a series of horrible choices. She makes the worst choices," Martini said.

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"As a reader, you are completely engulfed in what she's doing. You can't look away. It's like a train wreck, it's that feeling of secondhand embarrassment when you're watching a movie and a character does something so awful, and you're watching through your hands."

Senna's writing was what hooked Martini.

"I was sitting on the couch and then I emerged from the book and realized three hours had passed, and I was done with it. I had no idea what had happened to my life," she said.

"[Senna] is really amazing at a sentence level. She writes these clean, propulsive sentences that are almost like — I don't want to sound too woo-woo — but they're almost like a swimmer doing laps. Very slow, meditative laps."

"The sentences she writes are absolutely incredible, and paired with what she's talking about, it makes this book completely hypnotic."

New People New People