PositiveBooklistRush is brutally honest about his experiences with his family, sexuality, and drugs. In this mix of morality tale and Thoreauvian meditation on the American landscape, Rush brings the conspiracy-laden world of the early 1970s counterculture vividly back to life; each page provides a fascinating window onto not only a tumultuous period of his life but also, more broadly, the American experience. This is a confessional and thoughtful memoir of the highest order.
Takis Wurger, trans. by Charlotte Collin
PositiveBooklist\"Würger’s international best-selling debut is a timely, beautifully paced novel about class and prestige in the #MeToo era ... In a campus novel that echoes the detective structure of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History... Würger cycles between each character’s voice to brilliantly evoke the medieval unreality of Cambridge and the almost comical wealth of the students. There is much to dissect in this concise and dramatic tale.\
PositiveBooklistLike an ever-shifting Rubik’s Cube, Mendelsund’s narrative blends influences and genres at will: it begins as an sf dystopia, unfurls like a mystery, and includes some deeply insular sections reminiscent of the late David Markson. Using a setting and themes similar to Don DeLillo’s Zero K (2016), Mendelsund has created a dense, complex, and rewarding novel that explores the ever-hazier distinctions between copying and creating, between ourselves and our ubiquitous devices, and between what is real and what is simulated.
PositiveBooklistThe descriptions of Eastern Europe echo Keith Gessen’s Another Country, and Stanley’s conflicted masculinity as well as the repeated trick of one-sentence chapters bring to mind Ron Currie’s Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles ... Merging the ludicrous and the melancholic, the odd premise provides many laugh-out-loud moments and some curious insights and enables Stanley to explore and understand why he performs the same role each and every day.
PositiveBooklistExplosive ... begins with palpable tension and urgency, a tone reminiscent of early Bret Easton Ellis. The focus on racial bigotry is markedly like that of Kenneth Steven’s 2020, but Gunaratne’s vision is much broader, encompassing the continuing reverberations of British colonialism, ideas of community and identity, and the everyday struggles of his adolescent protagonists. While many will need help decoding the constant slang, Gunaratne’s polyvocal tale, longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, etches a rich picture of contemporary London and the recurring, historically rooted racial tensions that dominate it.
RaveBooklistNemett’s incredible debut follows David Fuffman, a comics-obsessed freshman at Princeton ...The novel switches between the perspectives of David, or Infrared, and his old high-school crush, Haley Roth, also at Princeton. As their group grows into a ridiculous cult, and it becomes unclear what is real, there are numerous staggeringly imaginative set-pieces involving a striking cast of characters. With a preapocalyptic setting like that of Gary Shteyngart’s Super Sad True Love Story and soaked in hallucinogens in a way that recalls Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus! Trilogy, Nemett’s wondrously fresh novel positively bursts with charm, heart, and invention.
Luce D'Eramo, Trans. by Anne Milano Appel,
RaveBooklistD’Eramo’s stand-in narrator evocatively describes the abject sights and smells of her experiences in a factory, and later in the Dachau concentration camp ... Perhaps most like D. M. Thomas’ controversial The White Hotel (1981), or the unflinchingly brutal realism of Pier Pasolini’s Salò, D’Eramo’s tale is built from disparate memories as they returned to her later in life, and she consciously tries to avoid giving shape or structure to this fictionalization of her experiences. The result is a difficult, disturbing, and yet brilliantly ambiguous exploration of humanity’s darkest time.
RaveBooklist\"...[a] gorgeously constructed short novel ... Both Eden’s and Mary’s fears and foibles are richly explored to create a deeply moving portrayal of how grief can begin even while our loved ones still cling to life. In this unique Afghanistan and Iraq Wars novel, which joins a growing genre that includes Kevin Powers’ Yellow Birds (2012) and Phil Klay’s Redeployment (2014), Ackerman’s focus on a single family makes the costs of war heartbreakingly clear, as does his drawing emotion and import from the smallest of acts with incredible skill. Many will read this wonderful novel in a single sitting.\
PositiveBooklistLike the ancient texts he is inspired by, Mason humanizes each figure, whether godly or mortal ... some familiarity with these myths is helpful, particularly in order to appreciate his changes. A fractured, multilayered text reminiscent of Alan Lightman’s classic Einstein’s Dreams (1992) and similar to Madeline Miller’s similarly themed Song of Achilles (2012), Mason’s novel is written in beautiful prose that almost reads like blank verse. Mason once again displays his ability to transform classical creations into a tale that is distinctly his own.
Thomas Clerc, Trans. by Jeffrey Zuckerman
RaveBooklist Online...A Clerc slowly describes every facet of his home in ridiculous, fascinating, often hilarious detail. Treating each object, whether a doorbell, a book, or a kitchen utensil, as equally worthy of attention, he creates a comical forensic analysis of the possessions he has accumulated since moving in on September 11, 2001, while self-consciously imitating and expanding Xavier de Maistre’s classic, A Journey around My Room (1795) ... Challenging to get into yet easy to read, this wonderfully translated, thought-provoking work questions what defines a person, the relationships we have with the objects that define our routines, and what literature can be.
PositiveBooklist\"With a realistic approach that nods to William Dean Howells and Tolstoy in equal measure, and like the fiction of his n+1 cohorts Chad Harbach and Benjamin Kunkel, Gessen presents a measured, socially engaged novel that is moving, often funny, and deeply thought-provoking.\
PositiveBooklistCrace’s latest is an ethereal novel that ambles and simmers towards a delightful conclusion ... exploring ideas of myth, grief, and inequality.
PositiveBooklist...beautifully crafted short stories ... Here, as in his novels, he dissects the granular details of contemporary social mores while global issues flicker in and out of focus ... O’Neill’s tales often echo [David Foster] Wallace’s mixture of humor and profundity, demonstrating a similar, almost preternatural eye for the absurdities of contemporary life.
RaveBooklist Online\"Full of sharp left turns and unexpected narrative choices, Clarke’s ... bleak yet hilarious collection constantly mixes the seemingly mundane with the profound ... In trying to illuminate how we discuss race, war, and family dynamics, Clarke shows he is constantly willing to push boundaries. The resulting tales are hilarious, haunting, and original.\
RaveBooklist OnlineWhile Scheinman is clearly an astute reader of Austen—he includes numerous analyses of Austen’s life and work that are insightful and often quite funny—this is also a fascinating window into a man’s experience in a largely female realm. Scheinman is a wonderful guide to the world of Austen, and this honest and thoughtful discussion of the role Austen’s works have played in his family will delight any Janeite.
RaveBooklistAs Paul and Susan plunge ever-deeper into love, Barnes beautifully demonstrates that their romantic fantasy—and, by extension, the novel as a genre focused solely on love—struggles to survive in the face of violence, financial practicalities, and alcoholism. With a narrator every bit as intriguing as Stevens in Nobel laureate Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day (1989), the novel slowly unfurls, and the reader drifts along on Barnes’ gorgeous, undulating prose. Focusing on love, memory, nostalgia, and how contemporary Britain came to be, Barnes’ latest will enrapture readers from beginning to end.
PositiveBooklistCleverly shaped as a journalistic report and told in a style similar to that of Ron Currie and John Jeremiah Sullivan, Miles’ tale offers a nuanced and endlessly entertaining exploration of the age-old debate between faith and reason.
RaveBooklist\"In a brilliant third act, Flanagan turns his savage mockery to the recent trend of autobiographical fiction, including the celebrated, multivolume My Struggle by Norwegian writer Karl Ove Knausgaard. Full of hilarious asides, this sonorous, blackly comic novel offers searing insight into our times.\
RaveBooklistThese essays define Moore (Bark, 2014) as a critic of great candor and fairness, and a great champion of female writers ... her incisive readings are a must for budding authors ... Moore, cogent, distinctive, and entertaining, reiterates what great art can do.
RaveBooklistAs Carey guides readers across this vast, often barren landscape and into each character’s complicated personal history, he further delves into his career-long fascination with the dark underbelly of Australian history. Carey is a giant of contemporary fiction, and with this powerful, pertinent exploration of race and national identity, the importance and resonance of his work is freshly and enjoyably affirmed.
Andrew Sean Greer
RaveBooklistWhile such luminaries as Michael Chabon, Dave Eggers, and John Irving have praised Greer’s previous novels, including The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells (2013), Less is perhaps his finest yet ... Through numerous flashbacks, Greer signals his debt to Proust and paints a comic yet moving picture of an American abroad. As Greer explores Less’ lovelorn memories, he also playfully mocks the often ludicrous nature of the publishing industry. Less is a wondrous achievement, deserving an even larger audience than Greer’s best-selling The Confessions of Max Tivoli.