Maggie Shipstead

We're continuing our weekend reads recommendations with author Alexander Chee, whose novel Edinburgh won multiple literary awards. Chee's pick for you this weekend is Astonish Me, by Maggie Shipstead — the tale of a ballerina who leaves the dance world to have a baby. Chee tells NPR's Rachel Martin that he appreciates Shipstead's prose, which he calls excellent but not flashy. "I think of it as having a transparent quality which is to say that you're drawn into the story more than you are made to consistently pay attention to the style of it.

'Astonish Me' Is An Artful, Elegant Dance

Apr 10, 2014

"Etonnez-moi," Sergei Diaghilev, the founder of the Ballets Russes, used to say to his dancers. Astonish me. Maggie Shipstead's book of the same name does not astonish; rather, it charms. It is full of the kind of prose you want to curl up and nest in like a cat: seamless and full of small elegances.

The title of Maggie Shipstead's second novel is: Astonish Me. She did just that --astonish me -- with her debut novel of 2012, called Seating Arrangements. After reading that novel, I likened the then 20-something-year-old Shipstead to "Edith Wharton with a millennial generation edge." The comparison remains sound.

The novel I've been recommending this summer to anyone, female or male, who's looking for the trifecta — a good story that's beautifully written and both hilarious and humane — is Seating Arrangements, Maggie Shipstead's debut novel from last summer. I was about to go all old-school and excitedly add that Seating Arrangements is now out in paperback, except since more and more readers are instantly downloading new books at a discount, paperbacks are becoming increasingly irrelevant.