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.