RaveBooklistThe graceful economy of language and a setting that feels almost like the real world are reminiscent of Kafka, while the halting prose echoes David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress. But as well as being a fable set in a semi-recognizable place, this is also a vivid depiction of what it means to be a delivery driver in a world of casualized labor. Like Johanna Stoberock’s Pigs (2019), Mendelsund’s novel is not only a parable of contemporary capitalism but also a wonderful story, one that just as it begins to sag instead launches into a magnificent final act. This is an assured, hugely enjoyable novel full of grace and wit from a writer with a unique vision of what fiction can be.
PositiveBooklistThroughout, Carrey has flashbacks to his Canadian childhood, which are some of the most interesting parts of the novel. Reminiscent of Mark Leyner’s absurdist depictions of wealth...and with a similarly otherworldly depiction of L.A. in A. M. Homes’ This Book Will Save Your Life (2006), this is an engaging, fun tale that plays with the public perceptions of celebrities, questions our compulsive need to view, and contains a gloriously off-the-wall conclusion.
PositiveBooklistWhile convoluted (even for Kaufman), this novel is magnificently imaginative, bringing to mind Beckett, Pynchon, and A. R. Moxon’s more recent The Revisionaries ... With this surprisingly breezy read, given its length, Kaufman proves to be a masterful novelist, delivering a tragic, farcical, and fascinating exploration of how memory defines our lives.
PositiveBooklistAckerman’s trademark prose, defined by stillness and rich descriptions, evocatively captures the strained nature of contemporary Turkish life. While markedly different from Ackerman’s earlier fiction, this slow-burning novel of intrigue deftly hints at a shadowy world that exists just out of frame and is one that lives long in the memory.
RaveBooklist... another monumentally imaginative novel ... While the influence of David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest looms large—there are long descriptions of movies, Jonboat’s intoxicatingly beautiful wife, a vividly imagined alternate history, and a focus on the costs of entertainment and pleasure—Levin’s vibrant voice is unlike anyone else in contemporary fiction. While breathtakingly bizarre, this relentlessly inventive novel teems with humanity, humor, and pathos like few other recent works and is a book many will obsess over and delight in.
A. R. Moxon
RaveBooklist... sprawling, mesmerizing, unforgettable ... bizarre happenings set in motion an astonishing narrative that encompasses a huge sweep of history, from America’s founding to the present, and involves a series of magical realist events, including a fantastical circus and an underground world of crime. With typographical changes indicating switching between characters, Moxon’s intricately constructed apocalyptic caper is teeming with philosophical concepts. For fans of Mark Danielewski, David Foster Wallace (particularly Infinite Jest), Sergio De La Pava, and other fiercely ambitious writers, it sometimes feels like Moxon is a puppet master who has lost all control, only to masterfully pick up the strings to get his marionettes dancing again in an entirely unexpected way. Delving into memory and belief as well as complex questions about authorship and ownership, Moxon’s astounding novel, bursting at the seams with ideas and pathos, is a breathless demonstration of masterful storytelling.
PositiveBooklistDicks manages to create tension, pathos, humor, and some searing melodrama in a novel written entirely in lists ... Through lists, Dan’s rich, sympathetic voice shines, and as he organizes his opinions about music, his love of his wife, and his many vices and neuroses, he is funny and insightful. Like Benjamin Kunkel’s Indecision (2005) and Joshua Ferris’s To Rise Again at a Decent Hour (2014), this tale explores the struggles of a man attempting to navigate contemporary adulthood and his fear that he is unable to function like everyone around him. Often moving, sometimes shocking, always entertaining, this superbly crafted work emphasizes the incalculable variety of the novel form.
PositiveBooklistIn this throwback to 1980s dirty realism and a novel reminiscent of Frank Bill’s fiction, Gritton evokes a beautiful rural landscape and people struggling with the cards they’ve been dealt, creating a rollicking portrait of a compelling and complicated man who is the product of his choices as much as his circumstances.
RaveBooklistWheeler carves a unique portrait of Russia, one informed by a genuine affection for the food, culture, and landscape. A journey through time, space, and personal, culinary, and literary history, Wheeler’s latest is a joyous demonstration of how brilliantly immersive travel writing can be at its very best.
RaveBooklist... a brilliant work of historical fiction ... like the historical fiction of Hilary Mantel and Caryl Phillips, Palmer does not shy away from the depravity of the past, particularly the violent desires of London’s elite. Expertly utilizing an actual bizarre historical event to explore faith, reason, and the foundations of our current economic system, this exhaustively researched and dexterously constructed novel is another triumph to add to Palmer’s incredibly diverse corpus of works.
RaveBooklist... extraordinarily imaginative ... This is an allegorical text that brings to mind Kafka’s darker stories or Cormac McCarthy’s The Road (2006), not only for some shocking violence and some beautiful prose, but, also like Kafka and McCarthy’s fiction, because the intended allegory is opaque, so the novel can be read in several ways, as about the climate crisis, generational debt, immigration, and much more. But perhaps most remarkable is that as well as building a rich, fable-like world, Stoberock simultaneously weaves an engrossing and breathless narrative about the human capacity for both destruction and survival.
PositiveBooklist... a fascinating depiction of the Occupy period, a moment that popularized a stronger critique of capitalism and led to even more overt forms of surveillance. As the characters’ friendships strain, Crain offers many wonderful turns of phrase that evocatively demonstrate how surveillance affects how all of us think, relate, and communicate. Crain also pertinently explores the legal and moral challenges of the digital age.
PositiveBooklistIn this unusual biography, Benfey...persuasively argues that Kipling’s rarely discussed decade in America, from 1889 to 1899, made an indelible imprint on not only his writing but also American culture ... In slightly disjointed but nonetheless illuminating chapters, Benfey places Kipling’s work and often deplorable political views in the context of American society in the late nineteenth century, and he offers many insightful readings of Kipling’s enduring stories and poems ... [a] wonderfully approachable piece of scholarship...
RaveBooklistUtilizing a stunning range—one paragraph moves effortlessly from Nas to Jacques Derrida—Row exposes how many writers use space, time, and style to enact these flights ... Perhaps most interesting is the assertion that shame is a key component of these texts, particularly visible in the works of David Foster Wallace. But Row does not only issue blistering critiques, he also provides hope. Drawing on his personal experiences and the work of James Baldwin and other authors, he develops the idea that interracial art represents the possibility of \'reparative writing.\' Full of brilliant readings and beautifully written, this mind-altering work of criticism establishes Row as one of the preeminent cultural critics of our age.
PositiveBooklist... a delightful grab-bag of ideas, characters, and fantastical plots, all in prose that jumps off the page ... these vignettes, often with Twilight Zone- or Black Mirror-like premises, are both profoundly weird and weirdly profound. Some take the form of long-form jokes, some are more like parables, but in each, despite its brevity, Klosterman develops a stunningly complete world. At times it feels like Klosterman is channeling David Foster Wallace, Lorrie Moore, and/or Tom Robbins, and though some stories feel a bit gimmicky, the collection is, overall, quite remarkable. Designed to be dipped in and out of in short bursts, this book of quirky tales from a supremely confident writer is moving, funny, and ceaselessly entertaining.
RaveBooklist... glorious ... Reminiscent of the family explorations of Rick Moody, Jennifer Egan, and Lauren Groff, this tragicomic novel explores climate change, family ties, and the millennial generation’s feeling that they have arrived late to the party, that humanity and the environment appear to be declining before their eyes. Full of brilliantly realized characters, Hauser’s latest is profound, often incredibly funny, and captures the times like few other contemporary novels.
RaveBooklist[A] searing, contemplative, and unforgettable memoir-in-essays ... Deeply personal yet never losing sight of the big, historical reasons for recent events, this collection recalls Michael Herr’s classic Dispatches ... perhaps the finest writing about the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts that has been published to date.
Robert Menasse, Trans. by Jamie Bulloch
PositiveBooklist... utterly unique ... Menasse pairs a hapless Belgian detective story line along with satirical depictions of the modern workplace that bring to mind Joshua Ferris’ Then We Came to the End (2007). In constantly blending styles and genres, Manasse captures the wonderful diversity of cultures that the EU has brought together. Winner of the German Book Prize, this is part celebration of the EU and part farce, a strange, timely novel emphasizing the benefits of international institutions at precisely a moment when they are increasingly under stress.
PositiveBooklist\"While the alternate history is at times clunky and distracting, the comparisons between contemporary British politics and the 1980s are apt. McEwan makes an odd but inventive premise work spectacularly well; it enables him to explore nearly every hot-button issue, and it is fascinating to witness one of the finest living novelists delve into topics of such pertinence and complexity.\
RaveBooklist\"Like Andrew Sean Greer’s Pulitzer Prize–winning Less (2018), Leithauser’s journey novel wonderfully mixes pathos and comedy, and Louie, as he struggles for a sense of value and self, is endearingly and wonderfully human at every moment.\
PositiveBooklist\"Rush 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.