RaveThe Sunday Times (UK)I prefer Saunders’s own modest account of his career: \'The focus of my artistic life has been trying to learn to write emotionally moving stories that a reader feels compelled to finish\' ... Mission accomplished as far as his new book is concerned: the nine stories in Liberation Day are by turn exhilarating, sad, mind-bendingly bizarre and wickedly funny. All are stamped with Saunders’s quirky, profoundly moral sensibility, and his fury at repression and coercion.
PositiveThe Spectator (UK)Slim, quietly powerful ... It would be an exaggeration to say that Dinosaurs has a plot. It has a mood, a sensibility, and an elaborate series of loose avian allegories. Many of the chapters are named after birds, and bird behaviour reflects on the behaviour of the humans in our purview and vice versa ... Millet deploys a radically stripped-back prose style ... What does Dinosaurs add up to? It could be mistaken for a character study. Gil is attractive, perceptive, passive but not apathetic. He wants to do good, to be good ... Gil compels attention because he has the freedom to do as he likes – and chooses to observe and to care.
PositiveThe Times (UK)An insistently obtrusive biographer, Angier peppers her paragraphs with the first-person pronoun, dramatising encounters with her sources as though the process—her search—was as significant as her discoveries ... towards the end of her biography, in a chapter entitled \'An Attempt at Restitution,\' Angier pardons Sebald’s many transgressions (including his \'deep compulsion to lie\') with an urgent appeal to the restorative power of his art.
RaveThe Spectator (UK)Now less inclined to show off, Franzen is more assiduous in his excavation of character. We get less dazzle and a deeper dive ... has both length and depth ... Despite the proliferation of spiritual and moral crises, there’s enough narrative drive to keep the reader hooked.
RaveThe Times (UK)... a seriously entertaining fictional recreation of the life and violent death of a forgotten giant in the history of New York City, Andrew Haswell Green. A sentence from page six serves notice that the novel is hugely ambitious and pleasingly odd ... This may be historical fiction, but Jonathan Lee makes his own rules ... The detective work is ingenious and provides a teasing, low-key suspense ... Among the unexpected urban delights revealed in The Great Mistake is a fine comic sex scene between a prostitute and her corpulent customer ... The Great Mistake seems to float free of its era and defy the constraints of its genre. I won’t say it’s one of a kind, only that I wish there were more novels like it.
PositiveThe Spectator (UK)His very short, bracingly bleak new novel The Silence is DeLillo distilled. Anyone who doesn’t like the taste will find it unendurable; for fans it’s a straight shot of the good stuff ... And the voices of these five people, and DeLillo’s familiar, distinctive voice? There to remind us that we will always try to make ourselves heard, to make a mark, even as end times approach.
RaveThe Times (UK)... gathers nine stories, all of which fit snugly in the Ford canon, though his characters, unsurprisingly, have grown older and perch higher on the socio-economic ladder ... The prose is terse, the craftsmanship, as always, fine. The reader feels cradled in the capable hands of an expert ... Ford is exact and poetic ... There’s no sign that Ford has ever considered forsaking realism, but it’s possible that Kazin was right, that Ford is not content. That would account for the compulsive drive to tinker, to polish — to perfect.
RaveThe Sunday Times (UK)... wildly funny, deeply scary and unnervingly familiar, a dystopian tale that feels like it was written for right now ... The setup allows for delicious satire, but Millet steers the novel in a different direction; satire gives way to fable and allegory as the real reason for the kids’ disgust gradually emerges ... Sassy, meditative, loving yet unsentimental, cautiously, almost unwillingly sexual, Eve keeps the novel real as the ingenious scriptural parallels play out, framing questions about the relationship between science, faith and storytelling, and asking us to ponder how we will realign with nature when the safety net of the familiar frays and the prospect of an orderly future fades ... Millet is hugely ambitious and asks a lot of her novel, but not of her reader. Her touch is light and sure, even when her aim is to terrify. The allegorical elements of A Children’s Bible are sometimes brutal, but more often playful. Every echo of the Scriptures reminds us of the force of the original and the beauty of making something new out of something old. If there can be hope in a dystopian novel, it lies in that artful recycling.
RaveThe Wall Street Journal'Facts matter,' James Atlas declares in The Shadow in the Garden, a rueful, meandering and for the most part engaging and instructive meditation on the kind of biography he himself practiced in books on Delmore Schwartz and Saul Bellow — that is, literary biography ... Confessions of a Biographer is more like it. He dishes dirt with the lively enthusiasm of a hack at work on a celebrity tell-all, the difference being that much of the dirt is his own ... Prying into the lives of others can provoke guilt in some, but Mr. Atlas is hardly a prurient biographer (he admits to being more interested in the writings of his subjects than their amatory exploits)... The author is often funny, especially when unearthing forgotten characters, and in his footnotes he cuts loose, displaying a zany side ... James Atlas is death-haunted, and so is his book.
MixedThe ObserverIn America bears a strong family resemblance to The Volcano Lover – and again sadly falls short … If Ms. Sontag’s idea was to evoke the anomie and alienation of the expatriate by letting the narrative wander, listless and flat, she succeeded … In America will be prized for its brains, not its sex appeal (Maryna, hesitating on the brink of adultery, talks of ‘the emperor, mind’). Just as The Volcano Lover doubled as a treatise on collecting, the new novel teems with opinion on two great topics: America and acting.
Mark Z. Danielewski
MixedThe ObserverMr. Danielewski’s book, a first novel called House of Leaves, is a ragged cut-and-paste job, with scattered original bits … Some of the horror passages are genuinely frightening, but Mr. Danielewski’s artistic and intellectual pretensions get in the way (Nothing squashes suspense like a footnoted reference to Gaston Bachelard or Jacques Derrida) … The best part of the book is neither scholarly nor spooky–it’s a clever little postmodern frolic. Karen shows 13 minutes of footage from The Navidson Record to a bunch of people, most of them ‘real’ and well known, and asks for their comments … Some of the tricks that evoke and induce spatial disorientation work well. Others, like footnotes that strain to achieve three dimensions, are mildly amusing. But what can you say about the cute tic of always printing the word ‘house’ in blue?
RaveThe GuardianPastoralia: a good name for a theme park. It suggests rural simplicity tweaked, enhanced by modern technology and superior management skills. Though George Saunders uses it as the title of a story set in a theme park, it could also be his wry comment on the circumstances of the unnamed narrator, whose job is to impersonate a caveman ...succeed in squeezing meaning and emotional resonance out of absurd, post-real predicaments. His satirical jabs are sharp and scary, but also sad and unexpectedly touching ... Saunders specialises in giving losers — the ugly, the weak, the self-absorbed — a flicker of appeal or delusional hope ... Saunders's stories present an unsettling amalgam of degraded language and high art: slogans, jargon and the crippling incoherence of daily speech, arranged on the page with meticulous care ... He's a self-erasing author, happy to let other voices do the work.
PositiveThe ObserverConsider Jeffrey Eugenides’ delightfully harmonious Middlesex: Map its genome and you’ll find ancestors as diverse as the case study, the immigrant saga and the sitcom … Middlesex sweeps the reader along with easy grace and charm, tactfully concealing intelligence, sophistication and the ache of earned wisdom beneath bushels of inventive storytelling … Because Cal is so engaging and his transformation so intriguing, it’s easy to forget how broad and crowded Mr. Eugenides’ canvas is. Behind Cal there’s his family (its secret history well concealed), an immigrant success story … The spirit of this novel is anything but polemical-the sumptuous details of daily life distract, and Cal’s descriptive urge takes over.
MixedThe GuardianEggers has talent as a writer - but his true genius is for PR. He'd make a great circus barker. "I want everyone to witness my youth," he declares. "I am an orphan of America." His Heartbreaking Work is a mannerist flourish; it marks an especially self-conscious moment in the ongoing proliferation of those "memoir-sorts of books". Only sporadically is the reader wholly engaged as one is by an achieved work of art. Curious and at times compelling, this book is more like an artifact, a bright and blaring sign of the times.
RaveThe ObserverHugely entertaining and vastly ambitious, Cloud Atlas is tailor-made for a reader with eclectic tastes … The elaborate structure enacts a theory of history that’s part of the novel’s core meaning; the stop-and-go narrative reveals itself as a continuous cycle; the separate stories achieve a weird unity; and what seemed at first mere cleverness begins to look like wisdom … I’m sure it’s hard to believe that a pleasing melody could emerge from this cacophony of voices, each in its own language of key, scale and color. But the same remarkable skill that makes the various stories so distinct and engrossing makes their uneasy juxtaposition seem, in the end, harmonious.