add69bfc8506331f1ddf9978e3dc8942-w204@1xMorelia by Renee Gladman | Publishers Weekly

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…

41MBJ0BJq+L._SX317_BO1,204,203,200_The Failed Mechanics of Masculinity:
On B.H. Fairchild’s The Blue Buick |
The Millions

The ostensible occasion for this review is the paperback release of B.H. Fairchild’s The Blue Buick: New and Selected Poems, a compendium of 30 years of work, but the real reason is that I was simply moved to write about this book and moreover this poet, this B.H. Fairchild, whose name had previously existed in my peripheral vision but who became for three days of rapid but somehow still assiduous reading the only portal through which I viewed the world, as rivet by rivet the machinery of Fairchild’s frank verse contorted me through its circuitous veins–Pardon my lousy lyricism there. It’s just that after reading The Blue Buick in large gulps, Fairchild — not his style so much as his spirit — wore off on me. He’s one of those writers whose rhythm you fade into, smoothly, and when you emerge, the undulations still pulse in you, and it’s hard not to mimic the mechanics.

932b7fa05Here Be Dragons: On Literary Cartography | LA Review of Books
An essay-review of Andrew DeGraff’s beautiful and witty book of literary maps Plotted: A Literary Atlas for LA Review of Books: “For Plutarch, fiction was what was off the map, a land beyond the reach of historians with their “credit” and “certainty,” where the only “inhabitants are the poets and inventors of fables.” But, as DeGraff and others have shown, we can’t help charting that space, too, however imperfectly. Here’s another way to put it: maps describe places where people have already been in order to show others how to get there. Fiction is made of maps to places no one has ever seen, and when we all arrive at our destinations, none of us end up in the same place.”

06a6713ecbace7de289660f23152d955Lucky 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.

GenoaGenoa (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.

Tim-ParksThe Best Books About Books | Literary Hub
I love books. More than anything else. More than food. Shit, more than cleanliness. More than friends (sorry, everyone). I’d rather read about a city than visit it. I’d rather read a person’s work than converse with them. And sometimes, rather than read a book, I’d actually rather read a book about books. Whether it’s a history of a particular book (like Maureen Corrigan’s wonderful So We Read On) or a particular publisher (like Boris Kachka’s fascinating Hothouse) or a particular writer’s work (like Claudia Roth Pierpont’s brilliant Roth Unbound) or a particular group of writers (like Christopher Bram’s illuminating Eminent Outlaws), I’m all over it. In fact, it’s probably my favorite category: books on books.

9780307962669Ordinary Light by Tracy K. Smith | Northwest Review
Tracy K. Smith’s exquisite memoir Ordinary Light primarily traces three narrative threads—her relationships with her mother, with religion, and with herself—which are all tied together by Smith’s discovery of poetry. Raised in a Baptist family, Smith struggled through much of her life to resolve the ever-growing conflict between the certainty of her mother’s beliefs and the ambiguity of the real world. She found a kind of happy medium with poetry and went on to publish three volumes of it, the latest of which, 2012’s Life on Mars, won a Pulitzer Prize.

old-hotelThe Eternal Mystery of the Reclusive Writer | Literary Hub
Joseph Mitchell, J.D. Salinger, Thomas Pynchon, Harper Lee––it is vital to remember that they are simply human beings, whose lives are brimming with banal trivialities much less interesting than their fictions. Who is Thomas Pynchon? He’s just a guy––a particularly brilliant one, yes, but discovering everything there is to know about him won’t really add to our understanding of his books. Like Johnson’s metaphorical city, a closer look at Pynchon would be a let down of ordinariness.

1408682984075.jpg-300x0The Most Dangerous Book The Georgia Review, Spring ’15
At Oxford, on the day we began our discussions my professor, an impossibly handsome Irish man, watched me awkwardly flip back and forth between the prose of the novel and the endnotes of my edition. He interrupted me and told me never to reference the notes again. “If you don’t understand it,” he said, “then let yourself not understand it.” He said people had placed too much emphasis on “understanding” Ulysses, as if it were merely some puzzle to be solved. “Listen to the language,” he said. “Joyce wanted you to hear the music of it.” This was the best advice he could have given me. After that tutorial, I read on unencumbered by any fear of my inferiority in the face of the text. Ulysses was something you experienced just as much as something you understood.

1594206163.01.LZZZZZZZI 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.

spring15currentThe 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!

BradfordAll the Dumb Young Literary Stand-ins | The Millions
I was reminded of Tom Perrotta’s Bad Haircut and Junot Díaz’s Yunior stories in Drown and This Is How You Lose Her. And then going back to Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty in On the Road and further back to Ernest Hemingway’s Nick Adams and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Sad Young Men (and Keith Gessen’s Sad Young Literary Men). Essentially, these are all just stories about young men doing stupid shit, or young men not doing enough good shit, or young men doing good shit in the wrong way.

08-the-novel-a-biography-michael-schmidtThe Art of The Novel | The Millions
I am going to try to convince you that The Novel is one of the most important works of both literary history and criticism to be published in the last decade. The reason Schmidt’s book is so effective and important has to do with its approach, its scope, and its artistry, which all come together to produce a book of such varied usefulness, such compact wisdom, that it’ll take a lot more than a few reviews to fully understand its brilliant contribution to literary study.

MurakamiColorless Tzukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage | The Rumpus
A novelist makes choices—each element of a given book (from the smallest detail to the most prominent theme) reflects those choices. Murakami, who is undoubtedly a great novelist, does not usually make decisions carelessly. Here, the brutality inflicted upon Shiro is meant merely to amplify the internal plight of Tsukuru. Shiro ends up not just a sexist, irresponsible depiction, but a lazy one, too.