Set in a richly rendered Florida and filled with delightfully wry prose and bracing honesty, Arnett’s novel introduces a keenly skillful author with imagination and insight to spare. Continue reading…
Gladman’s strange and hypnotic novella depicts a woman moving through a dreamlike world and trying to find meaning in its inexplicable shifts. Upon discovering a sentence in a language that “wasn’t English” written on a piece of paper tucked inside one of her books, the unnamed woman attempts to figure out what it means. Continue reading…
This rich, heartbreaking novel from the late Uruguayan writer Benedetti (1920–2009) (The Truce), first published in 1982, describes the devastating effects on one family of Uruguay’s military dictatorship in the 1970s and ’80s. Continue reading…
Delaume’s first novel to be translated into English is a sly and thorny work that loosely takes the form of a game of Clue, and even more loosely takes the form of a novel. The six murder suspects are psychiatric patients in Paris’s Saint-Anne’s Hospital, and each gets a few chapters providing their backgrounds, how they wound up institutionalized, and attributing to them a name from the board game. Continue reading…
Bosnian writer Bakic’s debut teems with the oddball narratives of George Saunders, the eerie atmosphere of Edgar Allan Poe, and the feminist intellect of Marge Piercy. Her characters all, in one form or another, use language to survive, to manipulate, or to shine. Continue reading…
The reason debut novels are so exciting is because it’s the chance to witness potential greatness at its earliest stage—there are no previous novels to live up to, no signatures or habits to look out for, and no end to what we can imagine a new voice will do in the future. With each novel by a first-timer that you enjoy comes another career to follow, another sting in the dizzying yarn knot of your literary interests, and soon every month brings out a second, third, or fourth novel by someone who you’ve read since the beginning and whose development you’ve traced like a proud parent or a sports fan. Continue reading…
Recalling the work of Toni Morrison and Gabriel García Márquez as a sometimes magical, sometimes horrifically real portrait of a place, Serpell’s novel goes into the future of the 2020s, when the various plot threads come together in a startling conclusion. Intricately imagined, brilliantly constructed, and staggering in its scope, this is an astonishing novel. Continue reading…
A blistering and heartbreaking satire in which president Trump brings about a nuclear apocalypse, Doten’s second novel (after The Infernal) is by turns a dystopian nightmare, a cyber thriller, a spot-on treatise on memes, and a tragic tale of love and loss. Continue reading…
For true bibliophiles, there is nothing lovelier than a volume of collected works. Such a book, filled as it is with a career’s worth of writing, isn’t meant to be read conventionally, from beginning to end, but can be nonlinearly perused, occasionally opened, to any old page, to one’s favorite piece, and enjoyed again and again. Add to this the fact that these collection contain all—or at least most—of an author’s work in a given form, which means when it comes to the collected writer, you’ve got them covered; never again will you have to seek out something they published, since you’ve now got everything they’ve produced in a handsome, stuffed-to-the-brim edition. Below you’ll find some recent collected works by some of the most influential and monumental talents in the world—a few you’ve no doubt read, while others may be new to you. But they all, in their careers, ran the gambit of subjects and themes, explored the outer reaches of their forms, and composed a rich array of poetry and prose. Continue reading….
There’s no wrong way to read a book—in print, on an eReader, or through audio. Audiobooks, for instance, can offer things that other forms simply can’t. With a talented performer at the narrating helm, an audiobook can enhance the depth of the characters through voice, capture the rhythm of the prose, and emphasize the emotional subtext of important scenes. Continue reading…
(Photo credit: Matt McCarty)
Fathers are notoriously hard to shop for, but really, who isn’t? And anyway, all dads are different: some love the conventional dad subjects—sports, war, and presidential biographies—while others take on all sorts of eclectic topics. Continue reading…
(Photo credit: Matt McCarty)
If Roberto Bolaño’s 2666 is a circular novel, then the figure of Benno von Archimboldi, along with the city of Santa Teresa, resides at its elusive center. He is the Nobel novelist par excellence, the prototypical long-obscure, sure-to-be-lately-recognized writer. For most of the novel, his existence remains peripheral and mysterious, and his entrance, in the book’s final section, does little to elucidate his enigmas. So how does one proceed into Archimboldi as a character in 2666? What is the best way to determine his metaphorical place in the novel? One way would be the way any writer would want to be investigated: through the work. Continue reading…
Full Stop excerpted my book on Roberto Bolaño’s 2666:
2666 begins with a quote—a fragment, really—from the 19th century French poet Charles Baudelaire: “An oasis of horror in a desert of boredom.” Though the epigraph only cites Baudelaire’s name, the line comes from Geoffrey Wagner’s translation of the poem “Le Voyage,” from Baudelaire’s seminal work Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil) (1857). Innovative, daring, and utterly original, Baudelaire laid the groundwork for modernism—he is, in fact, credited with coining the term “modernity”—with his sexually frank and morally ambiguous verse. He also raised some predictable controversies: six of his poems were deemed outrage aux bonnes mœurs (“insult to public decency”) and suppressed. One can easily imagine what a self-styled renegade like Bolaño would admire in a figure like Baudelaire. Continue reading…
“Autobiographical” feels like the right description for Rachel Khong’s “Goodbye, Vitamin.” But because I don’t know whether her debut novel is based on her real life (and because it doesn’t matter if it is or not), I’ll say her novel feels “lived in.”
Khong has crafted a believably human protagonist in Ruth, a 30-year-old woman who’s back in her childhood home to help take care of her father, who has Alzheimer’s. “Goodbye, Vitamin” follows Ruth’s adventures in her old stomping ground for one year, during which she also tends to her own problems, including a broken heart and a lack of purpose. Continue reading…
“People are bad at giving up,” a man tells the title character late in “Stephen Florida,” Gabe Habash’s debut novel. “A lot of the time they don’t do it early enough.” He’s commenting on life in the oil fields of North Dakota, where Stephen is considering a job after college, but he might as well be describing Stephen’s current situation: He’s a wrestler at Oregsburg College in the late 1970s, and it’s his senior year, which means it’s his last chance to win a collegiate championship. Habash’s novel follows Stephen through his event-filled final season and traces his complex inner turmoil as he pursues his unbending ambition to dominate the competition. By the time the above statement is made to Stephen, he’s veered far away from mere determination and ended up near monomania, and his will to win has become enmeshed in bitter jealousy, calculated malice and philosophical scrutiny. The sport itself, in other words, is beside the point, as are the actual benefits of succeeding. Stephen’s drive has brought him to the brink, but is it too late for him to give up? Continue reading...
What’s interesting about these terms isn’t what they mean so much as how they’re employed: Díaz always uses them when discussing relationships, both sexual and emotional. His Spanish, then (which is never translated for non-Spanish speakers), not only adds to the authenticity of the narrator, but also functions, for the English-speaking reader, as a distancing device between Yunior and his actions, his seeming lack of moral compass. This usage both emphasizes the words and obfuscates their meaning. And finally, because Spanish is Yunior’s native language, his method of obscuring his inner self employs the words of his earliest—and one might argue, most fundamental—form of expression. Continue reading…
*As in, the abstraction, not the store
As we continue to write and, moreover, continue to read, another gap begins to slowly appear—this time, between the depictions of human moments, brief commentaries or implications of psychology, and how you’ve experienced an actually lived life. It is not that these renowned authors are getting anything wrong, exactly; it’s that you realize that their greatness often lies not in accurately describing life but in convincingly describing it. And this relates back to an earlier issue, namely that of making stories work. You see, when a young writer reads a great novel, it isn’t merely the style or the story that overwhelms the amateur. It is way in which the characters live. A neophyte doesn’t just read this as good and effective writing; it is seen a deeper level of living, so the gung-ho beginner thinks that not only are they unequipped literarily but also sensationally. They don’t think they live their lives as richly and psychologically complex as the fictional characters being described. Their fault, they might come to believe, lies in their essence, their experience, and their shallowness. Continue reading…
Okay, so now you’ve published your first novel! And, better still, it’s highly acclaimed! Your picture’s in The New York Times! You may have even won a prestigious award! All of your dreams have come true!
Now all you have to do is repeat the process all over again, except now the likeliness of duplicating the first book’s impact, receiving the same accolades, and winning more awards is basically a fraction of what it was your initial go around—which, even then was pretty remote—and if you understandably fail to achieve these things (again), you’ll disappoint people you’d never asked to esteem you so highly in the first place—and here you thought you’d made it and were finally free from the thankless work of obscurity, but these people, the very ones who lifted you from anonymity, now seem to be almost deliberately forcing back down into it. Continue reading…
So the following debut novels are ones that over the last year or so have really stayed with me, moved me, compelled me, and in general felt especially deserving of acknowledgment and recognition. Some of these books have received some wide acclaim, some have benefited from major marketing pushes from their publishers, and some haven’t gotten the attention and the accolades they absolutely deserve. I truly hope all of these writers have long and flourishing careers in literature. Continue reading.
It seems like an obvious question to answer: what, exactly, is a novel? Turns out the answer’s one of the slippery concepts that as soon as you try to define, you begin to qualify and edit and revise, and then qualify some more, until little by little, the number of amendments to the original statement are so great and their permissibility so near total that, hell, the damn definition itself could be considered a novel. How many pages or words differentiate a novel from a novella? What form must it take? Must it always have plot? Characters? And what of typography? Any rules on that front? Would a hand-written novel in a dollar-store journal of a friend of yours feel like a novel the same way a published novel by that same friend would? And I mean the word feel in a literal sense. How that journal simply didn’t have those features—of texture, mechanics, and design—that typically evoke the referent novel in a person’s mind but which actually have more to do with fiction’s commodification than with its aesthetics. A novel, then, is mostly a commercial distinction, as in, e.g., How do we sell this book? The answer to this, as everyone knows, is nevernuance. It’s short and sweet. It’s simplicity and catchiness, something a potential consumer can see, comprehend, and remember after a brief exposure. So something like “autofictional memoir blended with criticism and journalism”? Nobody’s gonna get that, let alone remember it. As these generic terms get stamped on books for better marketability, the divisions between the various categories get more and more distinct and less forgiving to cross, and like all fences they keep out just as much as they keep in, and soon the gaps have grown so vast that certain writers who seem able to nimbly and indiscriminately hop over them are viewed with as much perplexity as esteem. And so well if it’s not the page it’s printed on or its length, and if it’s not inherently plot-driven or character-filled, and if it’s the seeming pervasiveness of an understood definition is merely the result of repeated and successful branding on the part of publishers, then what the hell is it? A novel is a useful umbrella for the many torrents of fictional art. But when it rains it pours, and under harsh duress, the umbrella breaks like any of us. Read these.
So anyway, I moved to Las Vegas to go to school, which, I know, sounds ridiculous, but it’s true: I was to attend UNLV and live in a house my friend Greg’s father owned. Despite the promise of Twice the Jobs! ™, I couldn’t find any work. In Ohio, I’d had a job since high school, so suddenly, when living in a new city where I knew like three people and had no job, free time opened up before me like a vast desert after a long tunnel ride. A non-drinker and socially anxious to boot, I wound up reading a lot of books in those first months. I read The Great Gatsby, Anna Karenina, Dubliners, Candide, Nine Stories, Franny and Zooey, and A Confederacy of Dunces. I got super into theater, reading David Mamet, Samuel Beckett, Neil Labute, and Tom Stoppard. Contemporary literature, too: Dave Eggers, Chuck Klosterman, Saul Williams, Zadie Smith, David Sedaris, Tom Perrotta, Don Delillo, Nicholson Baker, and Nick Horby. I was too dumb and selfish and short-sighted to realize how white and male virtually all these authors were, but though I had been a reader since I could remember, I had never gobbled up books so voluminously. So impressed was I with my homogeneously hetero-normative erudition, in fact, I wanted to count them, to know exactlyhow many I’d read. So I made a list.
I felt small in Vegas, not merely in the sense of being one among so many, but also unequipped to strive for a life I wanted, because Vegas, being no-place, gave my existence there a purgatorial hum, and, being all-places, it never let me forget just how much was out there waiting to overtake me. When I finished itemizing the books I’d read and the total for the year came to 47 books, it was an act against that sense of smallness: I was preparing, to the extent that I could, for life, and I was learning, progressing, developing, and I needed something to reinforce my efforts, some suggestion of accomplishment to nudge me onwards. Continue reading…
Philip Roth is—or, since he’s not dead but retired, I should probably say was—the best American novelist of the 20th century. Between Goodbye, Columbus in 1959 and Nemesis in 2010, Roth published 27 novels and four books of nonfiction, and he won three PEN/Faulkner Awards, two National Book Awards, two National Book Critics Circle Awards, two WH Smith Literary Awards, a Pulitzer Prize, the Man Booker International Prize, the PEN/Nabokov Award, the Franz Kafka Award, the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters, a Gold Medal in Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the 2010 National Humanities Medal given by Barack Obama in the East Room of the White House. Whew. In a 2006 New York Times Book Review poll of writers, critics, and editors regarding the “single best work of American fiction published in the past 25 years,” six of Roth’s novels made the cut, more than anyone else. Critic A.O. Scott noted, “If we had asked for the single best writer of fiction of the past 25 years, he would have won.” Continue reading…
The authors of the following tomes seem less driven by the feat of epicness and more by its potential for infinite complexity. These women—some young and precocious, some experienced and wise—pursue their stories and ideas with all the same brilliance and playfulness and buoyancy and seriousness of the Joyce’s, the Pynchon’s, and the Wallace’s of the world. The only difference is these women rarely seem to shout about their accomplishments, and the world doesn’t present them as competitors in the big, ambitious novel game. But literature is not a game—or at least it isn’t one in the sense these men believe it to be. The art alone, independent of its relation to the gifts of its maker, is what is entered into the fray, and its value (the art’s) is where any sort of competition might play out—that is, through the experience of readers. A novel written with extra-textual goals (e.g., status, respect, fame) seems like a real waste of effort and time.
I recently sat down to read Max Porter’s extremely well-acclaimed novel Grief is the Thing with Feathers, a genre blend of essay, poetry, and fable, and without once moving from my position, I devoured the entire thing. The experience—of both the beauty of Porter’s writing and the book’s short length—gave me that rare and satisfying feeling of wholeness, of having internalized an entire narrative with all the varied undulations of its emotional trajectory, the sensation of getting in one fowl swoop the intentions of an artist’s work. Short stories can yield such a sense of completeness, but these for economical reasons often don’t (or can’t to the same extent) allow the reader enough empathetic exposure to the character to invest in their plight and their humanity—we’re usually given the plight.
Nearly every season, the literary world is introduced to some wunderkind writer who, at some stupidly young age like 21 or 22, has crafted a debut novel (usually) that is wise way beyond its fresh-faced author’s years. The attention placed on their books has as much to do with the novelty of precocity as it does with the merit of the work, if only because most of us, having lived through our early 20s without producing a masterpiece, know how difficult such a feat is to accomplish. Moreover, many readers enter into the highly extolled books of the preternaturally gifted with dubiousness, almost a suspicion of such quickly realized talent, so that upon publication the impassioned responses are drastically polarized between those much impressed by the early effort and those for whom it is nothing more than crass publicity on the part of the publisher and less the insights of some twenty-something genius.
On the 30th Anniversary of Borges’s death. Maybe my favorite essay I’ve published yet.
“The Other” and “August 25, 1983” are twin stories sharing a mirror: a young man fears the unknown future, while an old man accepts the unchangeable past. (In fact many have dismissed Borges’s later work as “geriatrica” too full of nostalgia.) But as I read Borges’s Selected Non-Fictions, his essays and reviews I considered taking him at his word: maybe there are two Borges in the world, existing at the same time. One is the fiction writer we know, the lover of paradox, the trickster, the forger, the artist who describes fantastical events with straight-faced authority, using the syntax and tone of academia; and then there is this other Borges, the critic, who writes reasonably and clearly, companionably and insightfully, about high-brow and esoteric subjects, whose aim is elucidation rather than bewilderment. As I moved through each review and essay of Selected Non-Fictions, I felt a similar shock that the young Borges did upon seeing his own name on the register: this couldn’t possibly be the same Borges, could it?
The Door by Magda Szabó | Northwest Review of Books
Emerence is a housekeeper for a writer named Magda, and the two women couldn’t be any more different. That sentence, in all its ordinariness, could legitimately stand as a plot description for Magda Szabó’s subtle and fascinating novel The Door. The events that take place are dramatic at times, to be sure, but they function more as isolated incidents rather than a narrative whole. Emerence is the through-line; she is the connective tissue that brings together the disparate parts to make a body. She is—like Gatsby, Ahab, or Daisy Miller—what I call a study character, an important figure that a narrator is unable to fully understand but who is also unalterably enmeshed in their psyche. Emerence, in all her extremely fine details, her many contra-dictions, her utter singularity as a character, is one of the most compelling people I’ve met in recent fiction. She is a classic; she is a magical, mysterious presence that makes The Door a masterpiece.
I’M IN THE FUCKING NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW!!! I CAN’T BELIEVE MY LIFE!!
“For the last 20 years, Helle Helle’s novels and short stories have made her a star in her native Denmark, where she regularly receives awards and acclaim. Denmark is also where, according to her biography, Helle “lives in a forest.” What a fittingly magical dwelling for Helle, who — judging from her first novel to be translated into English, “This Should Be Written in the Present Tense” — has enchanting gifts as a storyteller.” (More.)
The Ever-Expanding World of David Mitchell | Literary Hub
But as I read The Bone Clocks, and his latest novel Slade House, I realized that Mitchell now was after something grander and even more ambitious than any of his individual novels: this guy is going to connect all his books. For real. All of his books. And, it seems to me, he’s doing it unlike any other author before him. In his review of Slade House in the New York Times, Dwight Garner writes that, “Mr. Mitchell’s intertextual gamesmanship—the recurring characters and so on—began to seem, as a friend said to me, ‘less like Yoknapatawpha and more like Marvel.’” Garner invokes the comic book publisher pejoratively but I think it’s the reason Mitchell’s enterprise is so unique and captivating. Rather than creating a tapestry of a particular geography, Mitchell is telling one gigantic story, so that with each book the meaning and even the plot of his previous books are amended as he goes.
An Interview w/ National Book Award-nominee Karen E. Bender | Literary Hub
According to herself, Karen E. Bender feels “more natural” as a short story writer, and, according to me, she’s a fantastic one. The stories in her first collection Refund aim directly at their targets, the prose clean and sharp, unobtrusive but startling—in other words, she’s the kind of writer who employs her language in the service of her characters and her situations. Authors of this ilk—Jhumpa Lahiri, Nathan Englander, Antonya Nelson, Rebecca Lee—possess a confidence that may seem undercut by the lack of flash, but make no mistake: it takes a great deal of self-belief and skill to focus on a story’s content (and content that, it should be noted, pursues real human moments rather than histrionic drama) rather than its presentation.
Lucky Alan by Jonathan Lethem | PANK
The short story form serves Jonathan Lethem well. An imagination and intellect as keen as fertile as Lethem’s can take any idea and run with it for as long as he likes, which can result in, for instance, his disastrous 2009 novel Chronic City. Or it can produce something wondrous like The Fortress of Solitude. But Lethem’s stories, like his essays, allow him to explore a conceit with the same brilliant mind while simultaneously preventing him from wearing out his literary welcome.
In Praise of the New Modernists |
More recently—say, in the last 20 years or so—numerous so-called postmodern novels have contained this distinctly non-postmodern quality—not that the characters feel so much as the reader. The cumulative effect isn’t necessarily a fully fleshed-out character but a fully emotional experience. Think of Jonathan Safran Foer’s strong sentiments in the face of the Holocaust and 9/11; think of the alligator-wrestling family at the heart of Karen Russell’s Swamplandia!; think of the way Ali Smith works her linguistic magic in order to convey the complexities of love and relationships; or the heart-breaking wallop of David Levithan’s The Lover’s Dictionary; think of Reif Larsen’s I am Radar, of Zadie Smith’s NW, of Téa Obreht’s The Tiger’s Wife. Can these books truly be considered postmodern when the most prevalent aspect is emotion rather than thought?
Has Anyone Actually Read Infinite Jest? | Lit Hub
Has Infinite Jest become the kind of book that people own but haven’t read? Is it like War and Peace or The Recognitions or Gravity’s Rainbow or Middlemarch or The Magic Mountain or The Man Without Qualities? Why has Infinite Jest, supposedly such an influential novel, become a paper weight, a talking point, a bench-mark of high- and low-brow intellectuality? Why has no one (or, more accurately, why does everyone think that no one) actually read the thing?
Genoa (1965) by Paul Metcalf | Northwest Review
We as a nation would do well to follow the lead of Paul Metcalf, an experimental writer who died in 1999. His 1965 novel Genoa, reissued by Coffee House Press to celebrate its 50th anniversary, contends with exactly these kinds of forces. The present action of the novel is pretty bare bones: Michael Mills, a man with a medical degree but who can’t bring himself to practice, sifts through the detritus of his attic while his children watch television downstairs. That’s really it. Throughout, Michael quotes Melville and Christopher Columbus for various reasons and in various ways; a good chunk of the book is made up of quotations. But the novel is really about the convergence of three threads: 1. Paul Metcalf’s relation to Herman Melville (he was Metcalf’s great-grandfather), 2. Columbus’s relation to America, and 3. the character Michael’s relation to his brother Carl, who was executed for murder. These three notions intertwine and correspond in complex ways throughout the novel.
In Praise of Unlinked Story Collections | Literary Hub
But what I want to praise are collections in which the stories are unrelated, in which the characters are distinct, and the whole of the book isn’t a perfectly cohesive unit but is instead a messy depiction of numerous lives. Of course we assume that writers and publishers spend a lot of time organizing each story of a collection; we believe they try to create a thematic arc, a rhythm to the order, which hopefully makes the reading experience more consistent and enjoyable. But here’s the thing: this matters to me not at all. I do not need a collection to feel “cohesive,” nor do I spend too much time considering the order. Rather, what I adore is precisely the opposite: a rattling journey from plot to plot, from character to character, from idea to idea.
Bid Me to Live by H.D. | Tin House, Summer ’15
So thrilled about this! In the Summer issue of Tin House, I have an essay on H.D.’s novel Bid Me to Live, a neglected book by a talented writer. Associated with Imagism and Ezra Pound, H.D. showed, with Bid Me to Live, that she was as skilled in fiction as she was with poetry. Her autobiographical novel examines her failed marriage and her relationship with D.H. Lawrence. Buy it here!
Mark Z. Danielewski Profile | Literary Hub
I interviewed and profiled Mark Z. Danielewski for Literary Hub. He’s a favorite of mine and a brilliant writer. We talked about literature, intertextuality, and his newest work, The Familiar: Vol 1, the first of 27 (!). And he asks an important question: “Do we strip away every-thing that we don’t like so we can find a song we like or do we change the way we listen?” Check it out here!
Aristotle and Mr. Booth | Northwest Review of Books
First, it is necessary to establish the origins of rhetoric (and rhetoric’s original audience) to understand Booth’s achievements. Aristotle, rhetoric’s first academic, took great pains in his Rhetoric to enumerate all the types of emotions and listeners he knew, a valuable project, to be sure, since, as established above, rhetoric must focus on the audience and their responses. Unfortunately, Aristotle does not offer a complex exploration.
An Atheist in West Africa | Northwest Review of Books
How does an atheist approach a novel by a Catholic, albeit a less than strict one? Or maybe the better question is: Can I write about The Heart of the Matter and see only what I wish to see, authorial intention be damned? Countless pages have been dedicated to the role (or lack thereof) of the author in a text’s interpretation, but what do I do in this instance?
I Am Radar by Reif Larsen | The Millions
Reif Larsen’s first novel The Selected Works of T.S. Spivet was a frustrating narrative wrapped in a beautiful work of art. Parts worked wonderfully, but many sections dragged along, and the confounding and ill-fitting finale was rushed. But the imagination of the novel is undeniable, as is the talent of its author, so it was with much interest that I embarked upon Larsen’s second effort, I Am Radar, a measurably better novel than T.S. Spivet, both for its leanness and its grandness. It’s an epic page-turner filled with small, tender moments of wonder.
The Most Dangerous Book | The Georgia Review, Spring ’15
In the latest issue of The Georgia Review, I review Kevin Birmingham’s The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses. Joyce’s dense and delectable novel is one of my very favorites, and Birmingham’s book does the story of its publication and censorship justice. The issue also features wonderful writers like Stephen Dunn and Scott Russell Sanders. Order a copy here!
The Art of The Art of the Novel | Northwest Review of Books
For me, my life as a reader challenges my views as a writer. There are so many techniques to try, so many styles, so many types of stories. It’s all a bit overwhelming, which in part accounts for the appeal of books like Milan Kundera’s The Art of the Novel. Someone as accomplished as Kundera must have some useful insights into writing, right? Well, yes and no.
How to Be Both by Ali Smith | The Rumpus
How To Be Both is, after The Accidental, The First Person and Other Stories, There but for the, and Artful, Smith’s fifth masterpiece in a row. Her inimitable writing sneaks into you with its deceptive readability, but it’s her radiating intelligence that stays with you. Her mind works wonders on a theme, able to find lovely and profound connections in seemingly anything. She’s a passionately caring writer whose emotional generosity spills out into her pages, trickling out of her books like an overflowing champagne flute.
Last Word by Jonathan Blum | PANK Magazine
So with all those wonderful qualities, it’s a shame that Last Word ultimately feels a little late, a tad irrelevant. Blum attempts to shine a light on the ways in which the Internet has greatly complicated family life, but the overall effect fails to add anything new to the conversation––probably because the conversation has been going on for a long time.
The Children Act by Ian McEwan | Slant Magazine
“McEwan writes of many things, but in form he oscillates between two poles: the short, parable-like novel (On Chesil Beach, Amsterdam) and longer, more layered tales (Atonement, Saturday, even Solar, though it’s a comedy). The Children Act is of the first category, and at 221 pages, it’s a tightly knit piece of fiction, an elegant examination of a complicated problem.”