PositiveBrooklyn RailOwlish often feels like a dream in which Tse does a masterful job of amping up the tensions ... While Owlish doesn’t boast a specific or obvious political agenda, it certainly raises vital questions about what it means to live under colonial and authoritarian rule—and how easy it is for many of us to ignore the rising specter of tyranny.
PositiveBrooklyn RailMagnificent ... I’m not sure how Stella Maris would stand alone without reading The Passenger first, but it certainly does shine new and welcome floodlights on Bobby and their family history.
RaveThe Brooklyn Rail... magnificent ... McCarthy has taken the oldest story in the world—humankind’s search for meaning in a world seemingly devoid of God—and makes it feel fresh and personal to each and every one of us. There exist unseen powers that exert influence on every aspect of our lives. Here, those forces are embodied not by a solitary amoral villain as much as in some anonymous authority that’s terrifying in its systemic mundanity ... McCarthy controls tides that ebb from long passages of pure dialogue to some of the most lyrical and beautiful prose I’ve enjoyed in years. The effect is stunning. I found myself reading long sections aloud to better hear the assonances...These are pages to linger over ... Cormac McCarthy transports us to a world quite a bit like our own, where his characters, like each of us, feel the immense weight of absence—be it love or God or something even more ephemeral. The Passenger in particular is a masterpiece; it reminds us that McCarthy is both one of the most extraordinary prose stylists working in the English language and also our greatest teller of stories about not knowing.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewLiterary characters don’t need to be likable, of course, but they do need to be fascinating. That said, I didn’t fully loathe Cal’s white savior act until he returns to an emerald mine he co-owns in Zambia and ogles a village woman while she’s balancing laundry on her head ... Theroux is at his masterly best when slowly raising the tensions and resentments and pushing Cal toward the homicidal rage we know to expect. While the eviscerating denouement of The Bad Angel Brothers might make us question some of the red-herring narrative choices that come before it, Cal’s ultimate decisions feel both shocking and inevitable.
Haruki Murakami, Trans. by Philip Gabriel
PositiveThe Brooklyn Rail... delightful ... to step into First Person Singular is to cross from our present moment and into a lost country demarcated by old memories. As the title would suggest, these stories are populated by narrators looking back at the events of their own lives, often with an indulgent, nostalgic bent for their student years.
RaveThe Brooklyn RailThe dissonance between Klara’s understanding and our own serves as a masterclass on literary defamiliarization ... It might be possible to identify [dystopian] worries—especially the great inequalities born from these savage meritocracies—as the primary concerns of this novel. Yet, Klara and the Sun is no polemic, no cane-shaking diatribe about these upstart whippersnappers and their fancy new technologies. The novel isn’t reducible to one simple allegorical message any more than is the wind ... What makes Klara and the Sun in particular so remarkable, I think, is that instead of only looking backward at our origin stories, Ishiguro here is looking forward in time as if to warn us that the myths we insist upon believing today will shape how we will live in the future. He reminds us that even our most enduring stories can be rewritten.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewAs a former chief investigative analyst for the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office, Selfon clearly knows his way around a criminal conspiracy ... Unfortunately, the novel meanders toward a finale that’s more welcome than it is satisfying.
Sarah Rose Etter
PositiveThe Brooklyn Rail... weird and wonderful ... recalls David Lynch’s vision of the city in Eraserhead ... The literalization of the figurative is of course a classic narrative device. See Gregor Samsa, for example, or the Grinch, whose small heart grows three sizes that day. Etter claims that trope all for her own, however, and freshens it up in order to revel in a kind of feminist surrealism. Though entirely original, The Book of X sometimes calls to mind Kathryn Davis’s stunning debut novel Labrador ... cannot be pinned down to one easy-to-consume moral. Instead, it raises necessary questions about mother/daughter relations as well as bodily autonomy and the challenges to it, especially in places where meat is so prized.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewManages to be breezy and profound in equal measure ... a clever metafictional sendup of artists’ retreats and tech-industry think tanks ... [contains] one of the most perfectly tuned passages of fiction I’ve read in a very long time ... In inviting a comparison to Mann’s masterpiece, Mendelsund has set a difficult task for himself...reaches literary heights of its own, even if it occasionally punches down at some easy targets. In using nonsensical jargon to expose the hollow core of the global Big Ideas industry, Mendelsund has produced — or perhaps reproduced — something entirely satisfying. Same Same is a substantial book about emptiness. It reminds us that there’s no here here unless we create it ourselves.
Yukio Mishima Trans. by Andrew Clare
PositiveThe Washington Post\"... a compelling tale of love and violence ... By the time we reach the end, Mishima’s twisty timeline pays huge dividends. A powerful epilogue ties a neat ribbon around the plot ... Mishima’s sensibilities will seem a bit dated to contemporary readers. For example, the excessive and repetitive attention to the breast size of every female character is — to put it in technical terms — yucky. On the other hand, I did enjoy underlining the many fun and weird similes.\
RaveThe Washington PostIn detailing this vital—and indeed tragic—tale of Middle-earth lore, The Fall of Gondolin provides everything Tolkien’s readers expect. Given his ability to create unforgettable characters like Tuor and classical good-versus-evil myths, it’s no surprise these stories remain so massively popular ... Middle-earth stands as the most immersive and detailed fictional realm of our own age because of the different languages Tolkien—master philologist that he was—invented to describe it. Spending time in Middle-earth provides an opportunity to revel in his etymological derring-do. Characters and places go by different names depending on who’s talking, and that adds a welcome dosage of realism to the fantasy. There exists an intense sense of linguistic immersion that I’ve not found in much other literature ... The Fall of Gondolin demonstrates yet again that Middle-earth boasts its own rich cosmology and history.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewEdward Said once described exile as \'the unhealable rift forced between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home: Its essential sadness can never be surmounted.\' However true that may be, it applies far more to the struggling Haitians, who are beaten and robbed for being \'Africanos,\' than to the novel’s less-than-humble narrator. MacKenzie recognizes that Emma’s self-imposed exile creates a different kind of rift entirely, a \'privileged kind of displacement\' that could easily be repaired with an airline ticket. ... MacKenzie makes clear what Emma might not always see: that her life stands in stark contrast to those of both newly arrived Haitians and impoverished Brazilians. Expatriate novels often reveal far more about their characters’ homelands than they do about their presumably exotic destinations. Feast Days does likewise.
Haruki Murakami, trans. Jay Rubin & Philip Gabriel
RaveThe San Francisco Chronicle1Q84, like Murakami's other novels, is a remarkable book in which outwardly simple sentences and situations snowball into a profound meditation on our own very real dystopian trappings … Murakami clearly appreciates that Orwell matters now more than ever. 1984 serves as a kind of guiding light here, in large part because that novel seems to have predicted every element of our current surveillance state … What makes the world of 1984 so terrifying is how subtly it mirrors and mimics our own world. That's also true of 1Q84 … More than any author since Kafka, Murakami appreciates the genuine strangeness of our real world, and he's not afraid to incorporate elements of surrealism or magical realism as tools to help us see ourselves for who we really are.
Mathias Enard, Trans. by Charlotte Mandell
RaveThe Washington Post\"With divisive rhetoric spouting these days from every direction, Mathias Énard’s magnificent Compass has appeared on our shores at precisely the right time ... There’s an apt symphonic quality to Charlotte Mandell’s translation. Themes appear and return, often in variations. Motifs — illness, dread, shame — lots and lots of shame — return us to Ritter’s bed and his long, dark night of the soul. The genius of Énard’s composition lies in the seemingly random organization of Ritter’s thoughts ... Énard has written a masterful novel that speaks to our current, confused moment in history by highlighting the manifold, vital contributions of Islamic and other Middle Eastern cultures to the European canon.\
PositiveThe Washington PostMoore has divided Jerusalem into three main sections, and each could stand alone as a novel unto itself, yet together they form something extraordinary ... Moore’s own prose is always lively and rarely orthodox. He can evoke mirth and dread in equal measure ... The prose sparkles at every turn, but that’s not to say it’s without flaws. Some entire chapters, particularly in the middle Mansoul section, struck me as wholly soporific. Moore also demonstrates an affinity for overwriting ... The imagination Alan Moore displays here and the countless joys and surprises he evokes make Jerusalem a massive literary achievement for our time — and maybe for all times simultaneously.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review...years of experience find expression in poised and crystalline prose that piles lovely sentence atop lovely sentence. The spare language doesn’t call undue attention to itself until the rushed ending, the extreme brutality of which suggests that Kit would have been better off staying at home. That’s unfortunate. Nevertheless, Katherine Carlyle is a substantial novel, a story told with authority about a bold woman who in abrogating some of her many privileges hopes to find new meaning for her young life.