RaveLos Angeles Review of Books... brilliantly rendered into a modernized American English by Damion Searls, with the typical Gidean cocktail of irony and bathos ... [an] open approach to aesthetic form and cultural criticism is typical of Gide, a symptom of his highly original and independent mind ... There is thus a certain matter-of-factness in Gide’s work to which he would like to lay claim. There is no deviousness here, he seems to say, no coded critique ... This book is the perfect testament to the fact that Gide is trying to get neither underneath nor between things. He is simply telling what he sees, warts, contradictions, and all, without flinching ... Such is the capaciousness of Gide’s art ... it is through Marshlands that we grasp the delicate gift that has enabled Gide to travel along the cracks within our historical and aesthetic categories for decades: his inviolable pursuit of the dialectic.
MixedLos Angeles Review of BooksDespite the novel’s title, it is surprising to find that Jack is its only real character. Della, present nearly throughout the story, sadly lacks any actual presence. At times, she is the philosophical mouthpiece of her author ... At others, she is spectral, a half-presence, as if real only to Jack, though never real enough to have wants or needs that might meaningfully collide with his own ... It is possible to read this Jack-centrism as a deliberate narratological manifestation of Jack’s solipsism. But if we concede this point, we should also concede that the novel, its plot, its characters, its intellectual problems, are poorer for it. And to give the benefit of the doubt would lead us to miss all the ways in which Jack works quite hard to be a good person, or at least a better one. Della’s flat character is a problem in its own right ... Jack wants to take us there, past the sphere of the self; but Jack holds us back, keeping us from the straight and narrow.
MixedThe Los Angeles Review of BooksIt is a tale saturated with the mid-career ambition of a celebrated author. And when ambition is the word, one hopes to watch it dissolve behind something challenging, breathtaking, and maybe even new ... Importantly, Bassam and Rami are real people ... The book draws its power from this vibrant and actually existing pair. But the true power of the novel lies in its practice of constellating ... The echo resounding from Abir’s and Smadar’s deaths, as captured by McCann, weaves a connective tissue that expands beyond the lives of the two friends, separated by a brutal occupation, and into the breadth and depth of the histories and geographies that are sedimented into the region ... The structure that [McCann] has chosen — a constellation of a thousand and one mosaic-like segments — fails to provide the kind of pressure and heat needed for form to act as an artistic crucible ... nothing set ablaze in the manner of artistic epiphany. This cold slack results in several patches of the novel that manage to constellate only briefly, before spiraling out of reach and disintegrating from the whole ... That said, the novel remains potent, not least for its careful elucidation of Bassam’s and Rami’s heart-wrenching experiences. One begins to wonder, in fact, whether one needs the entire apparatus at all. These are real people, after all, their stories known and true. And when we reach the novel’s center, and are able to read for ourselves their doleful stories and thundering admonitions from their own mouths, it’s tempting to feel that this is all that was needed ... What is most evident in this novel, hanging above it like a nimbus, is how deeply McCann cares — about Rami, Bassam, their families, and also about everyone still forced into the jaws of an unjust system. Also, about birds.
RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksFly Already, Keret’s relaxed yet scintillating new collection of (ultra) short stories, is deeply invested in the problems—often traumas—that impede, alter, and on rare occasions improve relationships ... The humor and sweet irony that permeate Fly Already and most of the other stories in the collection allow Keret to bring his plots to a singularly human resolution. His characters, often suffering quietly from the throb of some deep and hidden (and sometimes bizarre) misery, find small comforts in the company of others, or in brief glimpses of beauty. Often these figures are wonderfully average, slightly clueless men whose troubles have left them directionless and, perhaps counterintuitively, emotionally open. It’s precisely that openness, that low-level hum of receptivity that predisposes them to a kind of quotidian sweetness and light that leaves you with a soft sigh, and maybe even a tear. That’s not to say that the situations Keret builds around his characters are in any sense \'every day.\' He is a master conjurer of strange scenarios. But their occasional surreality and frequent absurdity only add to the impression that one is dealing with a deft craftsman ... a collection that actually feels like a book. In its adroit organization, its casual lack of pretentiousness, and its commitment to exploring a handful of prism-like themes through their various aspects, Fly Already comes closer than most to that ideal.
MixedThe Los Angeles Review of BooksThe most accurate generality one can lay over this story is that it is eminently readable. As with many McEwan novels, this one has you signing the readerly contract by about page 20, and likely breezing through it within a day or two ... The standard how-human-is-this-robot and will-these-robots-revolt-and-overthrow-human-society tropes are deftly brushed aside in favor of more interesting questions ... seems to struggle with the possibly gigantic scope of its speculative manipulations. Can it really be that the only ripples we’d get in return for the development of true artificial intelligence are four more years of Carter and a 70-year-old version of Alan Turing in a silk shirt? It doesn’t quite feel like enough ... McEwan has led an elephant into the room, but he doesn’t want to do the work of rearranging the furniture ... McEwan seems ultimately to have wanted to write a science fiction novel, but he couches it in his old historical upholstery...The result, though, is confounding, both as history and as science fiction. For its clear, and at times, elegant prose, as well as its evident success as a page-turner, this novel probably deserves to sit among the ‘M’s on the shelf.