RaveThe New York Review of Books... an almost outrageously charming book...Giacomo Sartori takes a simple, playful premise and sets the universe crazily spinning. The Italian writer has conjured up a delicious, comical stream of omniconsciousness ... a being of authentic complexity and paradoxical humanity, of both otherworldly dignity and satirical absurdity, is an irresistible character ... Sartori playfully deploys God’s omniscience, dangling it here, pulling it away there, like a cat toy. The effect is happily destabilizing, as is his radically changing perspective, ants to nebulas to bull semen to the brilliant, explosive birth of stars. Sartori creates a God whose language is casual and genial, a God whom you could have a beer with, and perhaps already have, then yanks him back to the most remote heavens, leaving us here on Earth as insignificant specks ... The only certainty is Sartori’s humor, godlike, infusing every part of the book from the premise to the plot to the venal, amiably clueless characters to the language of the diary narrated in the celestial being’s intelligent, deadpan voice ... The elegant, easy-going translation by Frederika Randall is convincing and conversational, reveling in the diary’s asides, footnotes, and parentheses in which God is constantly setting the record, and the reader, straight ... Sartori has bestowed on us a narrative that is both comforting and disconcerting.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review\"Like a pinbody, Elizabeth McCracken steadies her constellation of characters, and readers watch as fate rolls their way, knocking them sideways, sending them flying into the gutters or skimming past them, missing them altogether ... Always, though, shining through the carefully, beautifully painted grays, is the clarity of McCracken’s humor, bright and invigorating, like flickers of sunlight. Humor illuminates her work, revealing things clearly that we might have overlooked ... McCracken refuses to distinguish between the absurdity of comedy and the absurdity of tragedy ... Bowlaway... is jumpier, twitchier [than McCracken\'s previous novels], a big book that veers in and out of the lives of its idiosyncratic characters, creating what McCracken calls a \'genealogy,\' occasionally verging, in its bric-a-brac of historical oddball detail, on the precious. But McCracken’s ironic perspective, her humor and her deeply humane imagination never desert her ... In Bowlaway, death and love and dreams live together, squabbling, soothing, holding hands, full of resentment, affection and confusion, like members of a large, spirited, extended family.\
PositiveThe New York Review of Books\"And because of the timing, the geography of the South and the West, the political references, and the poor and middle-class people Barry meets on his travels, Lake Success presents itself as a book about America. But Barry is just a tourist in America. Lake Success is really a New York story, and a good one ... Barry is not a nice guy, and like most of Shteyngart’s heroes his obnoxious qualities are so complete and so overwhelming as to create an almost sympathetic innocence and naiveté ... Lake Success follows someone trying to find an answer, a simpler and purer life. But the novel is not about simplicity or purity at all. It is about complications, tangles and knots, muddied expectations and outcomes. Emotions ripple any surface, shudder against conflicting emotions, leaving waves of questions and doubt ... Lake Success is moodier, less showy than his earlier novels...\
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewMelissa Broder writes about the void. She approaches the great existential subjects — emptiness, loneliness, meaninglessness, death and boyfriends — as if they were a collection of bad habits. That’s what makes her writing so funny ... Broder deftly catches the victims of victimhood in her satirical glance, but she also recognizes frailty when she sees it ... Broder carries us along, even as we shake our heads. The book is uneven, but it has great momentum, like waves hitting the rocks ... The Pisces is part satire, part fairy tale and, sometimes jarringly, part meditation on addiction.
RaveThe New York Review of BooksBlue Nights is a haunting memoir about the death of Joan Didion’s daughter, Quintana Roo Dunne Michael, at the age of thirty-nine...is something quite different. Blue Nights describes Didion’s descent into the inevitability of living in a world not only without her husband, not only without her daughter, but, finally, without hope ...about what happens when there are no more stories we can tell ourselves, no narrative to guide us and make sense out of the chaos, no order, no meaning, no conclusion to the tale ...a beautiful, soaring, polyphonic eulogy, a beseeching prayer that is sung even as one knows the answer to one’s plea, and that answer is: No ... Memories — even these memories, the ones she has collected in this book — are as fragile and complicated and beautiful...a deeply moving elegy to that void.
RaveThe New York Review of BooksRobinson poses doctrinal questions about predestination and grace, about the afterlife and who will be there and who will not, serious questions only for the sincerest of believers, yet they become serious in Robinson’s telling for the rest of us as well … Robinson approaches her characters with uncompromising curiosity, but that curiosity is at the same time so patient it is almost chivalrous. Their lives are full of disappointment, and they disappoint others; they are an imperfect lot … Their encounters are brief, stilted, oddly direct, yet aloof, like Lila herself, but the romantic tension grows, borne along, incredibly, subtly, beautifully, by theology.
RaveThe New York Review of BooksConfessional memoirs often seem to spring from a hope that when a writer shares a painful experience, readers will not only be informed, they will be inspired to overcome their own pain. But Gay is not here to confess. Nor does she indulge in the promise of improvement or even inspiration. There is no successful therapy or diet or life-affirming meditation practice in Hunger. Hunger is a walk in Gay’s shoes, a record of the private pain of the endless and endlessly mundane inconvenience of travel through a world set up for people who move through the world differently than you do ... Gay describes herself as 'self-obsessed,' but she has written a memoir that never slides into narcissism. On the contrary, the movement of her thought and prose is open and expansive. Gay writes of extreme obesity with such candor and energetic annoyance that her frustration with herself and with the world around her attains universality. She writes about rape and its aftermath with such wounded, intelligent anger that a crime we are used to seeing primarily in sensational form on television becomes our reality as well as hers. That is a very generous act.
RaveThe New York Review of BooksBatuman’s novel is roaringly funny. It is also intellectually subtle, surprising, and enlightening. It is a book fueled by deadpan wonder ... ead this book, revel in this book, an academic novel that is not only about the absurdity of higher learning but is also about the love of learning. Batuman has written a romantic comedy about the romance of language, a metacomic novel of ideas, and an adventure in grammar. The Idiot is an epic tale of words and the people who love them and live by them ... The comic genius of Selin as a character is that she sees absurdity and creates absurdity by how she sees. She is a perfect comic creation, and a touching one, too.
RaveThe New York Review of Books\"Aciman gives the island a hallucinatory, paradisiacal beauty, a beauty as clear and blurred as memory ... In this first variation in particular, Aciman withholds and reveals information with an illusionist’s skill. He creates a tender, wistful momentum in a story that is very much about a summer that stood still ... Aciman’s details of a modern-day affair are uncanny, funny, perfect ... Aciman writes about distance, the distance we stand from the past, from lands we no longer live in, and the distance between lovers. Even the details he meticulously observes are a confirmation of distance, for they never quite signal the truth, keeping us apart from truth ... It is a desolate book in many ways, the rich landscape and bright sun of southern Italy and the possibilities of youth winding up on a dark city street dulled by disappointment. It is also an accomplished and nuanced exploration of how we are exiled from each other and from ourselves.\
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewExpertly constructed, Mister Monkey is so fresh and new it’s almost giddy, almost impudent with originality. Tender and artful, Prose’s 15th novel is a sophisticated satire, a gently spiritual celebration of life, a dark and thoroughly grim depiction of despair, a screwball comedy, a screwball tragedy ... As cues and miscues (onstage and off) propel the story forward, Prose deftly passes the narrative perspective from one character to the next ... It’s an intricate technical accomplishment, even more remarkable because it feels effortless ... Sympathy, sharp and painful as a dart, is one of Prose’s most devastating and beautiful weapons ... Chekhovian. It’s that good. It’s that funny. It’s that sad. It’s that deceptive and deep.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewDon’t Let My Baby Do Rodeo is a novel about finding the right words for what was once foreign but is no longer. It is suffused with sadness as well as humor, with hope as well as weary despair, and Fishman describes the turmoil of family, parenthood and cultural emotion with urgent, sly detachment. His language has the originality and imagination of someone who comes to English with unexpected thoughts and rhythms in his head, and he is, simply, a joy to read.