Archive - Book Reviews

2007

November 11, 2007
In the Jewish tradition, language is holy. More precisely, one language is holy-Hebrew. Hebrew letters were created by God, the story goes, and are deeply powerful. They can summon new life if... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Dalkey Archive Press, July 2007 79 pages, $9.50 14 writers contributed to As You Were Saying; Marie Darrieussecq and Rick Moody; Camille Lauren and Robert Butler; Jacques Roubaud and Raymond Federman... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Scott Snyder's new story collection, Voodoo Heart , is an ensemble that trumpets the arrival of an inspired and imaginative young American writer. The book, Snyder's first, is comprised of seven... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Archipelago Books, April 2007 260 pages, $25.00 This overtly poetic Midwestern Gothic has a rhythm and pull that carries it through its sometimes overwrought stylings. Jason "Coleman" Moore is an... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Soho Press, October 1, 2006, 304 pages, $23.00 In The Texicans , Nina Vida combines reverent tones of magical realism with the brutality of a Cormac McCarthy novel to create a captivating and... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
W. W. Norton, August 2006 320 pages, $15.95 Flash Fiction Forward , edited by James Thomas and Robert Shapard, is the newest compilation of flash fiction in an already well-populated category of... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Thaddeus Rutkowski 's novel Tetched is described by the author as "a novel in fractals." And indeed, it is in the structure where much of its allure lies. Rutkowski has created a work both suitable... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Little, Brown, October 2006, 400 pages, $23.99 Women's Liberation, Black Power, Chicano Pride, Gay Pride: the 1970s in America were characterized by sexual revolution and cultural change,... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Harper Perennial , October 2006 352 pages, $13.95 Lullabies for Little Criminals by Heather O'Neill is a hilarious and heartrending look at the life of a teenager navigating the critical transition... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Bill Buford is not afraid to get his feet wet. For his first book, Among the Thugs , the Granta founder and former New Yorker fiction editor immersed himself in the world of British soccer hooligans... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, January 2007 256 pages, $23.00 The bland nature of Arlington Park 's opening line, "All night the rain fell ...", is a demand for innovation. Paradoxically, by employing... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Thaddeus Rutkowski 's novel Tetched is described by the author as "a novel in fractals." And indeed, it is in the structure where much of its allure lies. Rutkowski has created a work both suitable... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Viking Adult, February 2007 336 pages, $24.95 There aren't too many towns in America where a fourteen year-old can lose her virginity inside a giant concrete pipe. Still rarer is the municipality... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Cleis Press, October 2006, 144 pages, $13.95 The real question in Stephen Elliott's short story collection My Girlfriend Comes to the City and Beats Me Up is not whether these tales are... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
In a pulp exposé occupying a realm somewhere between soap opera and History Channel mini-series, Sara Gruen neatly packages a cavalcade of spectacle-Americana into a commercially viable romance... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Drawn & Quarterly, November 2006 112 pages, $15.96 Gabrielle Bell's autobiographical, award-winning minicomic, Lucky , is now an elegant hardback thanks to Drawn & Quarterly . In Lucky , Bell... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Viking Adult, February 2007 336 pages, $24.95 There aren't too many towns in America where a fourteen year-old can lose her virginity inside a giant concrete pipe. Still rarer is the municipality... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Coffee House Press, October 2006 218 pages, $14.95 Identity is fluid in Brian Evenson's The Open Curtain , a novel that probes into the secrets of Mormonism. Rudd, a Utah teenager, finds an article... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Impetus Press, August 2006 $17.95, 353 pages Will Alice find her way out of the looking glass? Will Sharlene find her way out of her world of mirrors where everything depends on the quality of her... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Every few years, death makes a comeback. Since the late 1970s, when Siouxsie Sioux declared herself a "gothic pixie," a death-obsessed aesthetic has cycled in and out of popular culture (and that's... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, December 2006 416 pages, $15.00 Adam Rapp's coming-of-age novel, The Year of Endless Sorrows , places its unnamed narrator, a new graduate and Midwestern naá¯f, in the... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Harper Perennial, September 2006 336 pages, $13.99 A fierce student-teacher affair forms the core of first-time novelist Emily Maguire 's Taming the Beast . Encasing this passionate narrative is a... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Coffee House Press, October 2006 218 pages, $14.95 Identity is fluid in Brian Evenson's The Open Curtain , a novel that probes into the secrets of Mormonism. Rudd, a Utah teenager, finds an article... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Harper Perennial, October 2006, 304 pages, $13.95 They say that Eskimos have 1000 words for snow yet the English language only has a handful of words to describe rain. The enormously talented Sarah... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, January 23, 2007 272 pages, $25.00 Deep down we know that every work of history is a work of fiction: most often a portrayal of a past in which the writer did not live,... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Imagine wading through a field of wild grass that extends over your head. Your ruined shoes squish through mud; vines grasp your ankles. Wind whispers voices you cannot understand. You came looking... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Harper Perennial, October 2006, 304 pages, $13.95 They say that Eskimos have 1000 words for snow yet the English language only has a handful of words to describe rain. The enormously talented Sarah... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
At times brilliant, at times tactical and plain, Shari Goldhagen's Family and Other Accidents has moments of wisdom, wistfulness and elegiac beauty as it describes relationships atrophied by... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Little, Brown, September 2006, 352 pages, $24.99 Janet Fitch 's novels make fine companions for the beach, the subway, the doctor's office waiting room. Page-turners, they flow with a fairly... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
MacAdam Cage, October 2006 300 pages, $16.50 William Gay's Twilight borrows heavily from Cormac McCarthy's semi-autobiographical Suttree ; it is somewhere between a homage and an imitation. Both take... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Harcourt, May 2007 240 pages, $23.00 First published in Poland in 1999, and recently released in English via Harcourt, Nine is a rant of a novel that careens like a commuter bus without brakes... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
At times brilliant, at times tactical and plain, Shari Goldhagen's Family and Other Accidents has moments of wisdom, wistfulness and elegiac beauty as it describes relationships atrophied by... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Robert Westfield's debut, Suspension , has a plot, but you don't need to pay attention to it to enjoy the novel; the bulk of its pages pay loving homage to New York City. Westfield builds the... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
In a city where housing projects and luxury day spas coexist, and young hipsters awash in bling rub elbows with old immigrants held together by support hose, Douglas Light conjures up a mixed-bag of... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Harcourt, January 2007 336 pages, $25.00 In her author's note Cris Beam is careful to point out that her book is not intended to represent the transgender community as a whole. Although Transparent... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
New Press, April 2007 240 pages, $22.95 Lore Segal's collection of short fiction, Shakespeare's Kitchen , is not quite a sequel to her last novel, Her First American. The protagonist of both works is... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Scribner, May 2007 256 pages, $26.00 "All plots tend to move deathward. This is the nature of plots. Political plots, terrorist plots, narrative plots, plots that are part of children's games. We... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Pantheon, November 2006 272 pages, $23.00 Daniel Kehlmann's Measuring the World , which was on the German bestseller list for over a year, is a rich and comic novel that will reward the readers who... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
McSweeney's, August 2006 $24.00, 480 pages If the physical maladies afflicting the patients in Chris Adrian's The Children's Hospital are rare and complex, the spiritual sickness plaguing the... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, December 2006 320 pages, $25.00 If the soul of religion, any religion, can be imposed from the top down, more than Islam is in trouble. A seasoned reporter for the Wall... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Grove Press, September 2006 448 pages, $15.00 The characters in Paulo Lins' City of God have developed immunity to the world. They are capable of killing without batting an eye. This absence of love... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
The precocious child narrators of St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves , Karen Russell's daring debut, face hurdles far greater than puberty. The children have fathers with horns, voices that... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Coffee House Press, September 2006256 pages, $14.95 Henry: thief, loser, and the main character in Laird Hunt's creepy novel The Exquisite , relates his story like a shell-shocked vet, weaving... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Hill and Wang, September 2006 128 pages, $30.00 This graphic adaptation of The 9/11 Report brings a new immediacy to the original assessment of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. In this... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Algonquin Books, September 2006 144 pages, $14.95 I suggest meditating before reading Satish Kumar's The Buddha and the Terrorist . Take time before opening this diminutive 121-pager to focus on the... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Akashic, March 2007 59 pages, $10.95 As sensitive readers we hesitate to admit it, but we are nearly always disappointed when a preposterous premise turns out to be the protagonist's dream, or... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Knopf, October 2006 352 pages, $26.95 Stefan Kanfer just might know every detail of the last 150 years of Eastern European and American Jewish history. In Stardust Lost , he manages to fit most of... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Hard Case Crime, May 2007 202 pages, $6.99 One thing that unites crime stories, noir fiction, and other good pulps is velocity. They're short and swift, grabbing you by the lapels and keeping you... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Milkweed, May 2007 308 pages, $22.00 Bombay is often said to be a city of paradoxes. In Anosh Irani's second novel, The Song of Kahunsha , the city (now called Mumbai) is sensually rich though... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Melville House, May 2007 Eeeee Eee Eeee: 211 pages, $14.95 Bed: 278 pages, $14.95 Who is Tao Lin? Notorious for his weird monotone readings (and online suicide threats), hated by Gawker for his... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Harper Collins, January 2007 272 pages, $24.95 Place was paramount in Daniel Alarcon 's 2005 short story collection, War by Candlelight . Whether imprisoned in a Peruvian jail or window shopping on... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, September 2006 185 pages, $22.00 Jonathan Franzen is normal. He may write more bestselling novels than you, or even make more public affronts to Oprah's integrity than you... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Lara Vapnyar's first novel, Memoirs of a Muse , tells the story of Tanya, a young woman who moves from Moscow to live with her struggling immigrant relatives in 1980's Brighton Beach. Tanya's... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
In The Thin Place , Kathryn Davis creates another world, a semblance similar to the one we inhabit, yet composed of different primordial ether. Davis details the events of one season in a conjured... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Hill & Wang, November 2006 112 pages, $15.95 The road to respectability for the literary graphic novel was more or less paved in 1992 by Art Spiegelman's Pulitzer-winning Maus . Mr. Spiegelman... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
In the first few panels of DMZ: On the Ground , the first collection of Vertigo's ongoing comic book, graffiti states that "Every day is 9/11." However, even if 9/11 has a symbolic significance for... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Soft Skull Press, June 2007 192 pages, $16.00 Hotel Theory is Wayne Koestenbaum's new flawed but illuminating -- and surprisingly enjoyable -- theoretical exercise. The volume actually contains two... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
University of Iowa Press, March 2007 184 pages, $22.50 Grammar Lessons , by Michele Morano, is a thought-provoking collection of thirteen personal essays grouped by her three stages of experiences... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
New Directions, November 2006, 288 pages, $45.00 As one of the most charming, itinerant and unorthodox publishers America has known, what better form could the autobiography of James Laughlin take... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Fugue State Press, January 2006, 336 pages, $16 Stet is the story of a Soviet filmmaker who might really be-at least to Authority, and to the imposed and imposing tastes of the lumpenproles-no... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Knopf, September 2006 336 pages, $25.95 As we stare into gaping holes left in New York and New Orleans, it's hard not to draw comparisons to the hole we've burned, by our own devices, into arguably... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
One of the great challenges in writing fiction about illness is keeping the story about people when the reality of medical constraints threatens to dominate. While readers want their authors to get... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Five dead girls, a missing pilot, CIA cover-ups, a runaway, and a mysterious unidentified serial killer. In Kelly Braffet 's new novel, Last Seen Leaving , these typical thriller scenarios are... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Pantheon Press, September 2006, 384 pages, $26.00 Mark Z. Danielewski's Only Revolutions is two books in one, or two books that make a third: a road novel to be read left to right in the voice of Sam... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Starcherone Books, July 2007 228 pages, $16.00 Told from a multitude of perspectives, Joshua Harmon's debut novel, Quinnehtukqut , explores a fractured form of storytelling. Set in the same tracts of... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Scribner, January 2007, 288 pages, $24.00 Colm Tíibín 's dazzling new collection of short stories, Mothers and Sons , contains-as one would expect from the title-multiple mother-son relationships,... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
AR Ammons once said: "I have 4/interests--money, poetry, sex, death." In Lynda Hull's three poetry collections, Ghost Money , Star Ledger , and The Only World , compiled here in a single volume as... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Picador, August 2006 224 pages, $14.00 In the essay collection Gone to New York , Ian Frazier delves into New York City just as an explorer from a far-off land would study an exotic locale. Having... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
New Directions, September 2007 96 pages, $11.95 Alexander Kluge is a German author, filmmaker, and the founder of Ulm Institut fír Filmgestaltung, the institute that birthed New German Cinema. As the... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Mykel Board's Even A Daughter Is Better Than Nothing lacks the type of overt soul-searching and self-discovery that one might expect from a travel book, much less one in which the author travels to... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
University of Iowa Press, October 2006 176 pages, $15.95 The title is more apt and to the point than any synopsis could be: the characters in Kevin Moffett's book of short stories are all precisely... ›› read more
December 12, 2007
Soft Skull Press, October 2006, 320 pages, $15.00 I won't reveal the name of the narrator-protagonist of Lynne Tillman's American Genius , since it pops up suddenly, almost arbitrarily, in the last... ›› read more

2008

June 6, 2008
Fukú is not a spelling-check-be-damned "fuck you," but a curse - a mucho mala dose of rotten ju ju , and the lurking theme of Junot Díaz's scintillating new novel, The Brief and Wondrous Life of... ›› read more
June 6, 2008
The Father Shore Matthew EckMilkweed, Oct. 2007, 192 p. In his short story “How to Tell a True War Story,” Tim O'Brien sets the parameters for stories about war. He writes, “A true war story is never... ›› read more

2009

October 10, 2009
What does it mean when science gives pathological names to traits like, say, extreme introversion and social discomfort? Does it flatten their human meaning or offer a much-need identity and support... ›› read more
December 12, 2009
For Brain Tesesco, life as an adolescent is — much like his Napoleonic physical stature — nasty, brutish, and short. There is no figure more wretched than a dweebish alpha-male aspirant. An... ›› read more

2010

March 3, 2010
In A Lesser Day , Andrea Scrima's first novel/memoir, each of its short chapters is urgently scrawled out from a new loft studio in New York or Germany, each of them addressed to a constantly... ›› read more
April 4, 2010
Zachary Mason's The Lost Books of The Odyssey isn't a novel or a collection of short stories, but exactly what its preface promises: a series of “concise variations on Odysseus's story that omit... ›› read more
April 4, 2010
For years I've been telling friends, acquaintances, even people at parties I speak to for five minutes, to read Jean-Philippe Toussaint. But I always have difficulty recommending a novel of his to... ›› read more
May 5, 2010
‘In the beginning there was no God. There was no time or space. There was just light and darkness. And it was perfect.' Olga Tokarczuk's fictional village – Primeval – rests in the heart of Southern... ›› read more
May 5, 2010
Everything Here Is the Best Thing Ever is a collection of 16 short stories, all of them focused on (and often narrated by) wayward suburban teenagers and twentysomethings. Intentionally or not, there... ›› read more
June 6, 2010
Don't ask me about the three delays of Charlie Smith's new novel, Three Delays . Who or what's delayed, when, why – whether there are any delays at all – I couldn't tell you. This isn't a book that... ›› read more
July 7, 2010
Upon beginning Kazys Boruta's novel Whitehorn's Windmill or The Unusual Events Once Upon a Time in the Land of PaudruvÄ— , the reader will first be struck – and perhaps put off – by the simple,... ›› read more
July 7, 2010
“The public has lost their courage to believe. They've even given up their ability to think. They can no longer even form their opinions, they absorb their opinions, sitting slack-jawed in front of... ›› read more
August 8, 2010
Am I a Redundant Human Being? This question is the title of Austrian writer Mela Hartwig's early 20th-century novel – now out from Dalkey Archive Press in a translation by Kerrie Pierce – and Hartwig... ›› read more
September 9, 2010
With its light tenor and hard to pin humor, Matthew Sharpe's new novel You Were Wrong is a smartly enjoyable inquiry into the unfortunate situation of Long Island high school math teacher Karl Floor... ›› read more
September 9, 2010
In The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami, May Kasahara is a teenage girl with an amoral sense of humor. When her neighbor, the protagonist, descends into an abandoned well to contemplate his... ›› read more
September 9, 2010
If – somehow – a dolphin actually clubbed Elijah Wood death, would I find this funny? I don't think so: it would probably be horrifying, frightening, too strange for me to accept. But even asking... ›› read more
October 10, 2010
So I see myself as a sort of subject that I am observing, as someone walking along beside me, and I'm starting to have thoughts about my new companion, such as he is. Gert Jonke opens The Distant... ›› read more
October 10, 2010
If you're our age and into fiction you have to act like there's a lot of new stuff out there to know about – secret, underground literary things that are making things new again. There isn't. It's no... ›› read more
October 10, 2010
"Pirates are a perfect picture of a person piecemeal, falling apart,” a character pronounces near the end of Terese Svoboda's Pirate Talk or Mermalade . Given the novel that precedes this statement,... ›› read more
October 10, 2010
Why would I read a book by a young American writer about what it's like to be an old Hungarian composer? Especially an old Hungarian composer who was at Terezín?After reading Andrew Ervin's first... ›› read more
October 10, 2010
The most recent in the outpouring of Roberto Bolaá±o translations is The Insufferable Gaucho , a collection of short stories and two essays. After finishing the opening story “Jim,” I surmised,... ›› read more
November 11, 2010
Despite Lindsay Hunter's decision to name her new book Daddy's , there are more than just fathers stalking, squalling, seducing and suffering in these 210 sordid little pages. That being said,... ›› read more
November 11, 2010
“Don't you know? It always ends with Jewish heads bleeding." This autumn witnesses a wonderful event in the world of literature: the re-publication of a forgotten classic, Israel Joshua Singer's The... ›› read more
November 11, 2010
Human beings have two systems for making sense of their universe, two ways of understanding the seemingly unfathomable pain and suffering and sorrow and even beauty of their lives. The first is art,... ›› read more
November 11, 2010
Putting aside its kitsch and recent surge in popularity, the spy genre can be engrossing and worthwhile if it is innovative. If it rests on a muddled mix of clichés, as Joshua Sobol's novel Cut... ›› read more
December 12, 2010
If his new short story collection Changing the Subject has an ambitious title, Stephen-Paul Martin gets away with it. And it's not only because of his change-ups between eco-terrorism, women with... ›› read more
December 12, 2010
Translated from Polish by Bill Johnston, who received a National Endowment for the Arts Poetry Fellowship in Translation, Stone Upon Stone by Wieslaw MyÅ›liwski is built on big questions about... ›› read more

2011

January 1, 2011
It is late at night in a train station in the Uttar Pradesh province in Northern India. Four men of various ages are sharing the waiting room when a young couple walks in, then walks out. The sight... ›› read more
February 2, 2011
The protagonists of Lars Iyer's first novel, Spurious , are two British academics. They make off-hand esoteric references – to cryptic thinkers like Emmanuel Levinas and Gilles Deleuze, to rarefied... ›› read more
February 2, 2011
Barbara Browning's exciting debut novel, The Correspondence Artist , published by Two Dollar Radio, revolves around four love stories, all of which are actually the same love story, but none of which... ›› read more
February 2, 2011
When I see “New and Selected Stories” on the cover of a book, I usually cringe. Regardless of the merit of the individual fictions within, such a retrospective work generally amounts to the literary... ›› read more
March 3, 2011
There exists a brand of individual whose life comes down to a story: men and women whose lives are irrevocably defined by a series of indelible childhood events. We know little of the life story of... ›› read more
March 3, 2011
Does anyone remember the plots of detective novels? According to legend, not even their authors. It's said that as they filmed The Big Sleep , Humphrey Bogart and Howard Hawks, as confused by all the... ›› read more
March 3, 2011
It's not uncommon these days to hear a literary critic bemoan the decline of the short story. But despite the handwringing, the last decade has given us some extraordinary short story collections,... ›› read more
March 3, 2011
Thaddeus Rutkowski's Haywire is composed of 49 pieces of painful and funny flash fiction narrated by the son of a Polish-American father and a Chinese mother. Though lacking an overarching story, the... ›› read more
March 3, 2011
“Noisy selfwilled man. Full of his son. He is right. Something to hand on. If little Rudy had lived. See him grow up. Hear his voice in the house. Walking beside Molly in an Eton suit. My son. Me in... ›› read more
April 4, 2011
Populated by folks scraping by under the poverty line in a rural setting, Alan Heathcock 's Volt (Graywolf Press) easily qualifies as country noir, Winter's Bone with fewer meth addicts. A son helps... ›› read more
April 4, 2011
The hardboiled mystery is so familiar to readers and film viewers, it's become a platform for almost endless invention. With novels like A Scanner Darkly , Philip K. Dick may have been among the... ›› read more
April 4, 2011
In the 262 pages of The Coffins of Little Hope (Unbridled Books), Timothy Schaffert packs 61 chapters, 11 “parts,” a kidnapping drama, a bestselling children's fantasy series, a local newspaper's... ›› read more
May 5, 2011
Justin Cartwright's new novel, Other People's Money (Bloomsbury), is a biting satire of the financial collapse of a bank following the steep economic falls of 2008. Set in the morality-upended world... ›› read more
May 5, 2011
Where would personalities who are grandiose, exceptional, and extraordinary even in their awfulness fit in? Richard III wages that he will be evil; the mass murderers of a totalitarian regime, by... ›› read more
June 6, 2011
A novel of place and character, R. Zamora Linmark 's Leche ( Coffee House Press ) focuses on six days in the life of Vicente “Vince” de Los Reyes, as he returns to his birthplace, the Philippines,... ›› read more
August 8, 2011
Netsuke (Coffee House Press) opens with a loathsome scene of debauched lust, and from there goes further and further down the rabbit hole into the twisted wonderland of the narrator's mind. But do... ›› read more
August 8, 2011
Rae Bryant 's The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals (Patasola Press) is a book about love and sex, but that description is the only one that will make Morals seem typical. Bryant has a unique... ›› read more
September 9, 2011
Jesmyn Ward 's novel Salvage the Bones (Bloomsbury) is a slow burn over the eleven days leading up to Hurricane Katrina, following the life of Esch, a pregnant teen in rural Louisiana who is obsessed... ›› read more
September 9, 2011
The mythical town of Stitchings is coming apart at the seams: unfortunate deaths riddle the town, snow never melts, the people are preoccupied with war, and monkeys from a traveling circus have put... ›› read more
September 9, 2011
‘The meaning of life is purely a Russian fabrication. We fabricated it for the very same reason the Asians fabricated Buddhism: presumably from want of life's basic necessities.' Vyacheslav Pyetsukh... ›› read more
October 10, 2011
“Why bother?” From the mouth of a stubborn pubescent, this question usually gets a smirk. However, in the case of Mathea Martinsen, the protagonist of Kjersti A. Skomsvold 's touching and spare debut... ›› read more
October 10, 2011
The Lake Banana Yoshimoto, Trans. Michael EmmerichMelville House, 2011It's been said that two characters make a dialogue, and three create a scene. Banana Yoshimoto's most recent novel to appear in... ›› read more
October 10, 2011
Khaled Mattawa, a leading English translator of Arabic poetry, often raises the issue of how a book might travel out of one culture and into another. From thematic incongruities, to language barriers... ›› read more
November 11, 2011
“ It's not for everyone, ” explains Joe, proprietor of Lightning Rods, Inc., to a bewildered new applicant. “We're looking for the kind of woman who is confident about herself. The kind of woman who... ›› read more
December 12, 2011
You will be reading Dukla (Dalkey Archive Press), Andrzej Stasiuk ’s meditation on the titular Polish resort town, and suddenly you will realize you haven’t been reading at all. You’ve been lost in a... ›› read more
December 12, 2011
There exists an old adage, or so we're told in Gianni Rodari's Lamberto, Lamberto, Lamberto (Melville House), “that the man whose name is spoken remains alive.” Ruminations on legacy aside—and indeed... ›› read more

2012

January 1, 2012
Ben Lerner 's Leaving the Atocha Station (Coffee House Press) marks the poet's first foray into prose fiction—with, it has to be said, very impressive results. This is an unusual American novel,... ›› read more
February 2, 2012
‘He was a social democrat and a fool, but may the Lord grant him eternal glory.' There is a moment in Ladislav Klíma's previous novel from Twisted Spoon Press, The Sufferings of Prince , where the... ›› read more
February 2, 2012
Almost two years have passed since Liu Xiaobo, the poet, professor and political dissident, won the Nobel Peace Prize (becoming the first person from mainland China to receive the distinction)... ›› read more
February 2, 2012
The namesake story of Thomas P. Balázs 's debut collection, Omicron Ceti III (Aqueous Books), opens with a list by Erik, the wry and institutionalized main character. As well-developed a personality... ›› read more
March 3, 2012
Recently, there was a major news story about Russian scientists in Antarctica who, after drilling down through over two miles of ice, had reached Lake Vostok, the largest sub-glacial lake in the... ›› read more
March 3, 2012
Set against the backdrop of Russian history from the time of Peter the Great to the post-Soviet collapse, Stephan Eirik Clark 's debut collection of short stories Vladimir's Mustache ({encode=" http... ›› read more
March 3, 2012
Everyone has encountered the freeloader. He's the guy who was always hanging around, having a good time, never footing the bill or pitching in. He's the guy who, as Nescio describes him in his story... ›› read more
April 4, 2012
In Kevin Barry 's new novel City of Bohane (Graywolf Press), it is easy to be swept under by the sheer inventiveness of his writing and the deeply imagined shape of the world he's created. Bohane, a... ›› read more
April 4, 2012
Whenever a big test match bubbles up to the international sports headlines, I start to get uncomfortable. As a sports fan, I want to like—or at least understand—cricket, but I've never been able to... ›› read more
May 5, 2012
Toggling in time between modern-day Russia, the Siege of Leningrad, and the ineffable romance of Paris, Andreï Makine 's rather short, but rarely sweet novel, The Life of an Unknown Man (Graywolf... ›› read more
June 6, 2012
Perhaps most famous for its seven-hour film adaptation by Bela Tarr, this is the first translation of Lazlo Krasznahorkai 's breakthrough novel, Satantango (New Directions), to appear in English... ›› read more
June 6, 2012
Antigone's story is perhaps the most tragic in the Oedipal cycle – the story of the seed, the victim, the side-effect, of the accidental incestuous coupling of her father with Oedipus's mother,... ›› read more
September 9, 2012
Michael Kimball 's new novel, BIG RAY ( Bloomsbury ), about a man's deceased 500 pound father, is a slim 180 pages of more than 500 short entries ranging in size from a couple of paragraphs to a... ›› read more
October 10, 2012
As if the psychological fallout of war wasn't a poignant enough trope (namely Afghanistan), Hold It ‘Til It Hurts ( Coffee House Press ) takes on the intricate delicacies of identity, family, and the... ›› read more
October 10, 2012
Looking at them collectively, the premises of J. Robert Lennon 's novels may at times seem like particular creative writing assignments that he has given to himself. On the Night Plain , his third,... ›› read more
November 11, 2012
It's Fine By Me ( Graywolf Press ) is a familiar story of a tough kid, a menacing father, and a lonely and often brutal coming of age. The plot is a good fit for Per Petterson 's brusque style and... ›› read more
November 11, 2012
The Sky Conducting , Michael J. Seidlinger 's debut novel, is a sometimes unsettling, often dry entry into the annals of post-apocalyptic dystopian literature. In it, America is dead of an unknown... ›› read more

2013

January 1, 2013
The short story has long been a hotbed for the wicked, off-kilter, anomalous, and unnoticeable. Blame the brevity of the genre's form, which allows for a degree of leniency with backstory, character... ›› read more
February 2, 2013
Percival Everett by Virgil Russell (Graywolf Press) is distinguished English professor and prolific author Percival Everett 's twenty-fifth novel and is being hailed -- as the dizzying title reflects... ›› read more
February 2, 2013
The National Stadium in Santiago, Chile, was built in 1938, and in its first decades played host to many major events, including the World Cup in 1962. After September 11th, 1973, when a coup d'etat... ›› read more
March 3, 2013
Going in to Melissa Harrison 's debut novel, Clay ( Bloomsbury ), it helps to understand the extent to which the focus of the book comes from the author's own personal perspective. Harrison grew up... ›› read more
March 3, 2013
The Story of My Purity 's narrator, Piero Rosini, teeters on the edge of his fanatical Catholic faith. He doesn't realize this, of course, but we do. As we observe Piero looking for a way out of his... ›› read more
April 4, 2013
Edwin Trommelen 's Davai! The Russians and Their Vodka (Russian Life Books) is as comprehensive a book as one could hope to find on the six-hundred year love/hate affair between Russia and vodka, the... ›› read more
April 4, 2013
In fifteenth century Italy, the zibaldone appeared. A new type of book, the zibaldone collected bits and pieces of various texts according to its compiler's taste, adhering to no other discernible... ›› read more
April 4, 2013
Billed as an "existential murder mystery," Norah Labiner 's fourth novel, Let the Dark Flower Blossom ( Coffee House Press ), will subsume you. It's a protean universe -- lush with scandal, violence... ›› read more
May 5, 2013
Works in translation occupy a strange, pleasing limbo for well-rounded readers. Typically they enter public notice after the first cycle of literary prizes abroad has rained down on the head of the... ›› read more
May 5, 2013
*****Original Message***** ( Hunt & Light ) exists precisely at the place where people write forlorn Facebook statuses instead of diary entries. The title, stylized with five asterisks on either... ›› read more
May 5, 2013
“Soon though, it became clear the blog was missing a key element, a sagacity that comes with age that could activate the yeast, as it were, and bring the loaf of true thought into the world. The blog... ›› read more
June 6, 2013
Heroism is one of those things that you can see only if you don't look at it too closely. Even though we know better, Americans still want to view the earliest decades of the American republic as... ›› read more
July 7, 2013
Roughly ten years after his singular and eye-opening philosophical work Straw Dogs , John Gray has returned with The Silence of Animals (Farrar, Straus and Giroux) to once again take humankind down a... ›› read more
August 8, 2013
Foolish behavior is a key ingredient of human nature. We tend to waste a great deal of our vitality pursuing goals of dubious value. Confronting this basic truth, writers have a few options. They can... ›› read more
September 9, 2013
From the beginning there is a mood of claustrophobia and stifled, unaired rooms in Merethe Lindstr ø m 's prize-winning novel, Days in the History of Silence ( Other Press ). The story opens with an... ›› read more
September 9, 2013
Abby Geni 's debut short story collection, The Last Animal ( Counterpoint Press ), seeks, in her own words, to explore "one of the great illusions of the human experience... that we are somehow... ›› read more
October 10, 2013
Daniel, the narrator of Dan Beachy-Quick 's novel, An Impenetrable Screen of Purest Sky ( Coffee House Press ), waltzes through time like a boy through a crumbling house. That's perhaps, the first,... ›› read more
October 10, 2013
Introduced to this “part dream-memoir, part semi-fictive journey through a hallucinatory Bucharest,” in the jacket copy, one cracks open the 464-page Blinding ( Archipelago Books ) anticipating some... ›› read more
December 12, 2013
To read Robert Walser is to fall under the enchantment of a particularly open and youthful enthusiasm. His essays of Fritz Kocher, which comprise the first part of this new collection of mostly never... ›› read more
December 12, 2013
It isn't terribly difficult to imagine why Janet Frame might have chosen to stipulate that In the Memorial Room (Counterpoint Press) be published only after her death. Based on Frame's own experience... ›› read more

2014

January 1, 2014
Chances are you have heard someone, a creative type or otherwise, romantically reflect on their youth as a time of boundless energy when they were out to ‘set the world on fire,' or something similar... ›› read more
January 1, 2014
Christopher Merkner 's debut story collection, The Rise & Fall of the Scandamerican Domestic ( Coffee House Press ), knows one big thing about us: given the choice between hideous violence and... ›› read more
January 1, 2014
Christopher Merkner 's debut story collection, The Rise & Fall of the Scandamerican Domestic ( Coffee House Press ), knows one big thing about us: given the choice between hideous violence and... ›› read more
January 1, 2014
Rachel Cantor 's blast of a debut novel, A Highly Unlikely Scenario ( Melville House ), is one of the more efficient Literary Pleasure Delivery Systems available so far in 2014, and also one of the... ›› read more
February 2, 2014
If we start from Randall Jarrell's definition of a novel as “a prose narrative of some length that has something wrong with it,” Elizabeth Mikesch 's new book, Niceties: Aural Ardor, Pardon Me (... ›› read more
February 2, 2014
It is fitting in a number of ways that The Jesus Lizard Book ( Akashic Books ) now exists. Given their sense of humor, in a way it seems only natural that the Jesus Lizard, the most concomitantly... ›› read more
March 3, 2014
Years ago, fresh cut from one of those breakups that forces you to alter your daily life on the most minute levels, I was attending the wedding of a family member marrying her first love after a few... ›› read more
March 3, 2014
Is the personal political? David Burr Gerrard 's debut novel Short Century ( Barnacle Books/Rare Bird ) answers that question strongly in the affirmative, at least in the life of journalist Arthur... ›› read more
March 3, 2014
It takes a genius to title a book something as emphatically negative as Can't and Won't (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Short story maestro Lydia Davis won the coveted MacArthur Foundation award a... ›› read more
April 4, 2014
Rule number one of life is always this: don't make a deal with the devil. It's a simple governing rule, really; No matter how tempting, no matter how enticing, you just don't do it. But the devil is... ›› read more
April 4, 2014
Was there ever a better guarantee to the reader than an author’s connection with place? Eric Charles May ’s Bedrock Faith ( Akashic Books ) presents in fictional South Side Chicago neighborhood... ›› read more
April 4, 2014
If you're looking for proof that language naturally carries the mineral ore of poetry within it, turn to Beth Steidle 's The Static Herd ( Calamari Press ). Steidle's new book is prefaced by the... ›› read more
May 5, 2014
In Talking to Ourselves ( Farrar, Straus and Giroux ), Andrés Neuman follows the illness and death of a young father, Mario, through the different voices of three characters as they perceive it... ›› read more
May 5, 2014
“It was my life that was lying in the middle of my life like that, like a pole-axed wildebeest.” American Innovations (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), Rivka Galchen 's first short story collection,... ›› read more
September 9, 2014
Valeria Luiselli 's Faces in the Crowd , a novel, and Sidewalks , a sequence of essays, have been published simultaneously by Coffee House Press , like components of a single project, and have a... ›› read more
September 9, 2014
Out of the Dust ( Spuyten Duyvil Press ), a collection of poetry recently translated from German, offers the reader a series of stark and often surprisingly unsettling glances through the eyes of the... ›› read more
October 10, 2014
The characters in Monica McFawn 's Flannery O'Connor award-winning story collection Bright Shards of Someplace Else ( The University of Georgia Press ) are only loosely rooted in daily reality... ›› read more
October 10, 2014
Though doomed from birth and dead by the exodus, Antigone endures endlessly. As the central figure in Sophocles' eponymous tragedy, she was conjured—righteous and rebellious—in 441 BCE and has been... ›› read more
November 11, 2014
Now We Will Be Happy ( University of Nebraska Press , 2014) announces in its title the doom of its characters, for of course no such declaration can possibly be fulfilled. Amina Gautier builds on her... ›› read more
December 12, 2014
Baby Girl and Perry, the 'fake ass thugs' at the center of Lindsay Hunter 's debut novel Ugly Girls (Farrar, Straus & Giroux), spend their days waiting for the night, the moment when they can... ›› read more

2015

February 2, 2015
Is there a right way to be happy? The foremost strength of An Amorous Discourse in the Suburbs of Hell (And Other Stories) does not lay necessarily in the beauty of Man Booker Prize shortlisted... ›› read more
February 2, 2015
WHEN POST-PREGNANCY IS A HORROR MOVIE When we meet Ari, the narrator of Elisa Albert 's new novel, After Birth (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), it is a year following her son's birth, and she hasn't... ›› read more
February 2, 2015
Uncertainty and indecision are not limited to any specific demographic, but they are both central to adolescence. Whereas later in life they can lead to wheel spinning, on the path to adulthood they'... ›› read more
March 3, 2015
The first story you encounter in See You in Paradise , J. Robert Lennon 's electric book of short stories is "Portal." As easy as it seems to dismiss the idea behind the story--a family of four... ›› read more
March 3, 2015
Welcome to Braggsville (William Morrow) is the story of D'aron Little May Davenport, valedictorian of Braggsville (“The City that Love Built in the Heart of Georgia, Population 712”) high school and... ›› read more
April 4, 2015
Money, religion, sex, intrigue: Mario Vargas Llosa delivers all of these in his new novel, The Discreet Hero (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), as befits a Nobel prize-winning author who stated at the... ›› read more
April 4, 2015
Per Petterson 's I Refuse (Graywolf Press) is, as the title suggests, a novel concerned with egoism and repression. It is also about suffering, and the two protagonists, Jim and Tommy, suffer... ›› read more
May 5, 2015
ODE TO A DYING CITY Vivian Gornick 's elegiac memoir, The Odd Woman and the City: A Memoir (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), is a kind of ode to a liberal, intellectual New York that no longer exists –... ›› read more
May 5, 2015
Set twenty years in the past, Stacy Wakefield 's debut novel, The Sunshine Crust Baking Factory ( Akashic Books ), comes at an opportune time to look back at the heyday of the practice of squatting,... ›› read more
June 6, 2015
Poet and playwright Deborah Levy staked out the territory of post-modern alienation with a vengeance in her first two novellas. 1989's Beautiful Mutants and 1993's Swallowing Geography ( Bloomsbury... ›› read more
August 8, 2015
Susan Neiman 's lively treatise on the how modern society celebrates the trappings of youth and rejects the stigmas of adulthood, Why Grow Up?: Subversive Thoughts for an Infantile Age ( Farrar,... ›› read more
September 9, 2015
In A Woman Loved ( Graywolf Press ), Russian-born French author AndreᯠMakine uses one writer's obsession with Catherine the Great to ask how history affects individuals, and if it is possible to... ›› read more
October 10, 2015
Fifteen-year-old Julie Winter is a typical teen, but Sara Jaffe 's careful presentation of her coming of age in Dryland ( Tin House Books ) lavishes it with such loving attention to detail that it... ›› read more
October 10, 2015
On every page of Sentences and Rain (Coffee House Press), Elaine Equi 's latest collection of poetry, you will find words and images in surprising, purepoetic, and truth-revealing juxtaposition—pages... ›› read more
October 10, 2015
Lincoln Michel 's Upright Beasts ( Coffee House Press ) is a debut collection of short fiction comprised of genre-bending tales of dark comedy and humanity. From the outset, we are thrust into the... ›› read more
November 11, 2015
Nearly all of the characters featured in Percival Everett 's new short story collection, Half an Inch of Water ({encode=" https://www.graywolfpress.org " title="Graywolf Press"}), are in various... ›› read more
November 11, 2015
One of Europe's preeminent literary enfant terribles is back in force with Submission (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), sowing discomfort among readers across the political spectrum with this satire... ›› read more
December 12, 2015
There is blood on the hands of the American soul. If we are born American citizens, we inherit this stain; but if we begin our lives elsewhere and then choose our American citizenship, we must absorb... ›› read more

2016

February 2, 2016
“He has learned that this is something one can do with words, stretch them into softness and push them past their meaning. Take him, for example. He prefers the word lost instead of taken. Lost is... ›› read more
March 3, 2016
It is no surprise to find Cote Smith's debut novel, Hurt People , published under the FSG Originals imprint, which has a penchant for tales from the dark underbelly of America. Among the ominous... ›› read more