PanNew York Times Book ReviewThe scholar Edward Said would famously argue that travel writers’ creation of a backward \'Oriental\' other was crucial not only to the inflated self-image of the West, but also to the actual maintenance of empire ... If the weight of this legacy has spurred critical self-awareness among some more recent practitioners in the genre, Colin Thubron does not seem to be among them ... It is in the past, though, that Thubron seems most comfortable ... At its best, The Amur River evokes a sense of history advancing as just such a swarm, erecting and toppling empires, goading hopes and trampling dreams ... But this vision rarely comes into focus. Mainly, it hovers over the text as an ambient sense of loss. Meanwhile, Thubron’s interest in contemporary political dynamics remains hazy. ... More inexplicably, Thubron ignores the one factor that is altering the landscapes through which he travels more than any other. He explicitly mentions climate change just once ... Thubron never says why he wanted to follow the Amur, nor what, if anything, he hoped to learn. It must have seemed important — Thubron was nearly 80 when he set out — but one begins to suspect it was just pride that motivated him, or force of habit. This silence robs his account of urgency. His wanderings feel aimless ... The role he was able to comfortably play for so many years, the confident scout of a society certain of its power, is no longer viable. You can feel the loss in the sag of his narrative.
MixedThe New York Times[Ehrlich\'s] courage is impressive, her experiences no less than extraordinary ... At their best, Ehrlich’s reminiscences carve a melancholy track, depicting the disastrous losses, human and otherwise, that accompany global warming. At its worst, though, Unsolaced can feel like climate crisis tourism ... Ehrlich hops around too much to truly register the emotional weight of the catastrophes she describes. The hand-wringing feels gratuitous ... More galling is Ehrlich’s silence on the actual forces propelling the crisis ... Ehrlich uses the phrase \'fossil fuel\' only once and barely mentions oil that doesn’t come from narwhals ... All blame here gets laid on \'we humans,\' a \'failed species,\' although the actual humans Ehrlich meets in Zimbabwe and Greenland contributed next to nothing to this catastrophe. The fact that the wealthiest people in the wealthiest countries on the planet bear the overwhelming share of the responsibility for the climate crisis is perhaps a cause of discomfort for her. It certainly should be. The truest sentence in Unsolaced may be its last one: \'What I have written is an odd kind of memoir, notable — if at all — for what has been left out.\'
RaveThe Guardian (UK)The 60s depicted here depart from the \'standard narrative\' of the decade that has emerged even on the left, in which university students, predominantly white and middle class, were \'the principal social actors\', and protest radiated out from a few large and storied campuses ... To their credit, Davis and Wiener do not attempt to squeeze those tumultuous years into a single frame. Their approach is encyclopedic rather than narrative. And at nearly 800 pages, Set the Night on Fire is frankly monumental ... For new generations growing up in a city whose very history is rarely acknowledged to exist, Set the Night on Fire is a vital primer in resistance, a gift to the future from the past.
PositiveThe NationMcCarthy thus provides all the makings for a toothsome family drama, which C decidedly is not. Nor is it a Bildungsroman or a historical novel, though it might masquerade as either. What matters here is not Bildung or fidelity but return, structured repetition, flickery overlays of pattern. All narrative advances are also descents and reversals ... in McCarthy’s fictions, unlike in Freud’s case study, no primal scene unlocks the secrets of the symbolic order. Behind every sign is another sign, an intersection in a web of linked associations. Meaning, such as it is, lies scattered across the network ... There are no hooks really, except the most basic mysteries of meaning. What suspense McCarthy provides is driven more by the momentum of his language and the layered elegance of his ideas than by events ... One could also kvetch that for all its cerebral pleasures, C suffers from a certain lack of playfulness. It’s not that Serge is a cipher; it’s that he’s not quite cipher enough. He’s too overdetermined a symbol, and one that signifies too precisely ... He has written an extraordinarily smart, complex and entertaining novel, a real rarity.
RaveThe GuardianThe frontier, Grandin argues, is finally closed ... The End of the Myth is a powerful and painful book, clear-sighted, meticulous and damning. Grandin writes with learned, punchy elegance, as attentive to the broad sweep of his narrative as he is to the fine details of each era. He excels at revealing the hidden ancestry, usually un-pretty, of contemporary rightwing tropes.
Asmaa al-Ghoul and Selim Nassib, Trans. by Mike Mitchell
RaveThe GuardianAsmaa al-Ghoul, who was born in the Rafah refugee camp at the southern end of the Strip, writes with clarity and tenderness of these realities and others that are less widely reported. Despite it all, she insists: \'People continued to laugh in Gaza.\' Her own laughter bubbles through the pages of A Rebel in Gaza: a stubborn, defiant joy in living, as keen as her rage or her grief ... A Rebel in Gaza is a love letter to an unloved place, a memoir written in collaboration with the Lebanese novelist Selim Nassib ... The usual smeary lenses through which the region is viewed are blessedly absent ... The world would be poorer without Ghoul’s voice, without her warmth, her fury and her laughter.
RaveThe Guardian[An] extraordinary memoir ... The title is a bit misleading – this is no dry history – but it carries something of the revolutionary optimism of [Mokhtefi\'s] tale’s beginnings, and, in its anachronism, something too of the heartache of its ending ... She leaves us this eloquent record, written with great humility and with love.
Roberto Bolaño, Trans. by Natasha Wimmer
RaveThe Los Angeles TimesAll but one of 2666's five sections focus on scribblers of one sort or another: the first on a comically repugnant group of European academics who specialize in the work of a reclusive German novelist named Benno von Archimboldi; the second on a sad, Bolaño-like, Chilean exile professor of philosophy; the third on a black American journalist weightily named Oscar Fate; the last on the mysterious Archimboldi himself ... This is no ordinary whodunit, but it is a murder mystery. Santa Teresa is not just a hell. It's a mirror also — 'the sad American mirror of wealth and poverty and constant, useless metamorphosis' ... Stories sprout from other stories. Digression rules. Nothing is ever finished, nothing answered, nothing solved. Bolaño is too smart, or too sad, to attempt to piece it all together.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Times'This book,' Hoffman announces early in Till We Have Built Jerusalem, 'is an excavation,' an attempt to sift the wreckage of Jerusalem's buried past. Buried pasts, I should say — Hoffman makes it abundantly clear in this brave and often beautiful book that they are many — and interlinked ... Hoffman writes with a quiet, stubborn courage, scouring the archives not only to understand Israel and Palestine as they exist today but to resurrect another vision, long since clouded over, in which identities were not so violently policed ... We are fortunate that she did, that she found the strength to remind us that other possibilities have existed, and may yet exist, beside the current grim reality.
Vladimir Sorokin, Trans. by Jamey Gambrell
PositiveThe NationMuch of The Blizzard will be recognizable from old novels: the pince-nez worn by Garin, icons and samovars, a warm berth above the stove, distances measured in versts. But this is Sorokin. Anachrony reigns. Relics of Russia’s past mix with a fantastical future, and both stand in for a cruel, uncertain present.