The best fiction that explores truth through trauma

Rosie Record Author Of Tronick
By Rosie Record

Who am I?

I’ve always been drawn to characters who are no longer on the edge but have stepped off and are halfway down the plummet—and while they’re falling through their trauma, they see the world’s darkness from an angle that translates into a beautiful kind of philosophy. People who have lived through hell have a perspective unlike those who have never struggled. The hell I lived through has given way to my own kind of philosophy and I let the darkness from my life come through my writing in streaks of light.


I wrote...

Tronick

By Rosie Record,

Book cover of Tronick

What is my book about?

Tronick is a visceral dive into the dystopia of tomorrow following an anti-hero through a world devastated by systemic corruption, religious extremism, and two opposing forces vying for control of California-Annex. Fiona Tronick is seen as a grungy pusher peddling shine and misinformation in back alleys, but she’s really a street operative and has always been loyal to her employer. So when a milky-eyed stranger hands her a briefcase of secrets and asks her if reality is real, she’s intrigued—but when she’s asked to execute that same messenger, she starts to question her employer’s motives and the role she’s playing in their game.

The books I picked & why

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Jesus' Son

By Denis Johnson,

Book cover of Jesus' Son

Why this book?

On the first date with my now-husband, he asked that typical question: What’s your favorite book? And despite it being a typical question I didn’t have an immediate answer. I love to read about psychology, neurology, linguistics, and cosmology, but those aren’t really the types of books that make you call out a favorite. I remember later staring at my bookcase and asking myself which one I could say was my favorite. On the next date I handed him my copy of Jesus’ Son. It’s an addictive page-turner and a quick read, so a few days later he'd finished it, loved it, and had a better idea of how my mind worked.

This collection of short stories about addicts, drunks, petty criminals, and screw-ups, is all tied together by a narrator who breathes poetry into the ugliness of what it is to be on the edge of society, and often on the edge of death as well. While the subject matter might make some people crinkle their noses and think no thank you, I just have to say, this book is literary poetry that makes your heart hurt in a life-affirming way. It makes you feel everything. The beautiful prose laid over horrifying scenes, depraved behavior, and heartbreaking circumstances create hairline fractures in your mind as you read. It makes you look at yourself more closely and re-examine your place in this world.


American Psycho

By Bret Easton Ellis,

Book cover of American Psycho

Why this book?

After I handed my copy of Jesus’s Son to my husband, he reciprocated with his copy of American Psycho, and I have to say I was not a fan when I first read it. Most books I gravitate toward explore the dark side of humanity to expose honesty and truth—and there’s beauty in that. This book is not beautiful. It’s a combination of brutal and boring. David Foster Wallace said, “In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still live and glow despite the times’ darkness.” American Psycho just lets humanity flatline into satire, only to be punctuated with viscerally violent scenes. But wait, I'm supposed to be recommending this book!

Here’s my pitch: It’s effective. It’s told through the lens of a sociopath who, while trying so hard to fit in with his designer clothes and perfect business cards, exposes the vapid, conformist nature of society. He highlights how the elites/popular crowd (whom I think most people are guilty of wanting to join at one point in their lives) are the opposite side of the same coin. Without money, the drunks, drug addicts, liars, and cheats are the dregs of society—with money, the same bad decisions are elevated into party culture and the well-dressed degenerates are envied by those not sitting at the VIP table. I think literature should make you think and question the lies you tell yourself. So while the narrator doesn’t offer insight into his darkness, he forces you to re-evaluate yours. I’m not talking about dipping a big toe into the sadistic waters of serial murder, I’m talking about the darkness that comes from wanting to fit in. What are you willing to do to be a part of the in-crowd?


Fight Club

By Chuck Palahniuk,

Book cover of Fight Club

Why this book?

“Unless we get God’s attention, we have no hope of damnation or redemption.” This is a stunning book, beautifully written, insightful, and crazy too. Chuck Palahniuk illustrates the suffering of just existing as no one special, working a meaningless job, and finding no value or purpose in day-to-day life. Through insomnia-induced delirium, the narrator finds a sense of freedom in the chaos and meaning in the pain. Perhaps he also sees light shining through the breaks in society where fighting takes place because he says, “only through destroying myself can I discover the greater power of my spirit.”

I believe violence is a very necessary element in literature because it highlights a side of humanity people condemn. But I’ve known good men who have physically hurt others and bad men who have never raised a hand, so what does that say about the fundamentals of fighting? As much as we want things to be beautiful and happy, violence is in our nature, and the dichotomy is necessary to highlight the other. Fight Club shows how, in a world where words and diplomacy are considered the only way forward, bare knuckles pounding on flesh can almost be called an act of revolution.


Bringing Out the Dead

By Joe Connelly,

Book cover of Bringing Out the Dead

Why this book?

Whoa, this book is a fun, chaotic dip into burnout. I had to just let go when I was reading, let the words crash over me like a wave, and get bashed around by the crazy stream-of-consciousness. The narrator's memories, fantasies, thoughts, delusions, worries, and everything else are all mixed up with crazy secondary characters and set in a realistically gritty and raw New York City. As a former resident of NYC, who has heard horror stories from lifelong residents, I could hear the desperate truth in every line. The narrator wants to quit—quit the trauma, the stress eating away at his nerves, but he keeps drinking, shooting up, and speeding to the next overdose, shooting, and heart attack. The narrator’s struggle between giving up on everything and trying one more time to find redemption in a broken city full of violence, sickness, and death took me one step closer to nihilism and then brought me back.


Brave New World

By Aldous Huxley,

Book cover of Brave New World

Why this book?

One of these is not like the other. While this isn’t driven by a shaky narrator suffering from burnout or insomnia, addicted to drugs, or contemplating murder, this book was life-changing for me. I started reading it while commuting between California to New York City for work and it was the first time I’d ever felt compelled to write in a book. I can hear people gasping in disapproval, but I whipped out my pen and began to underline passages and comment in the margins on how the words applied to my life. There is so much profundity in a story where a single character begins to question everything around them. This is the book that made me realize we are all prisoners in an unlocked and unguarded cell. We are all prisoners of expectation—expectations from family, society, or ourselves. To this day, I can’t shake the philosophy gleaned from this masterpiece. So when everyone points to Orwell’s 1984 as prophecy, I wish people would also open up a copy of Brave New World and read a deeper kind of truth.


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