PositiveThe Las Vegas WeeklyJudah also makes it clear in his lively blend of research and personal narratives that nationality and history are fungible. Poland, Romania, Russia, Austria-Hungary and Nazi Germany have ruled parts of Ukraine, moving or eliminating whole ethnic enclaves at times ... In Wartime resonates in our polyglot nation’s presidential race because Trump admires the strongman Putin and because he has financial ties to Russia. Both in Ukraine and now in Syria, Putin’s legions of what Judah calls 'sofa warriors' fold new layers of spin and denial into history’s volatile mix. Putin is here, too, in a certain way.
PositiveThe Las Vegas WeeklySometimes in the course of Nathan Hill’s The Nix, you sense you’re reading a film script, only in past tense (mostly) and without camera angles. That’s because Hill’s sharp dialogue sculpts characters—and to some extent situations and settings—while the narration often set-dresses, prescribing what should be scattered around a room more than describing what’s in it ... None of this is to say that the novel is a weak series script—just that it’s easy to see how it lends itself to adaptation into what will likely be a less nuanced series. Hill’s cinematic narration has the offhand flair and attention to ironic detail you find in Kurt Vonnegut or George Saunders, the bemused gaze on cruelties like subdivisions named for the animals and landscapes they destroy, and on the crudeness of life lived in modern media’s banal blare. And Hill can be at times both comic and poignant, with a feel for how psyches either function or collapse in each mode.
ed. Jesmyn Ward
PositiveThe Las Vegas WeeklyI’d like to shower thousands of copies of The Fire This Time on a Trump rally. I know I’m dreaming, but indulge me. Maybe a few will thumb through Jesmyn Ward’s compilation of essays and poems by young African-American writers, and settle on a page that hits a nerve and starts peeling away the layers. Maybe it will help to hear from actual black people that the one thing 'all blacks' agree on is that it is dangerous to be young and black, and then learn the history of why that remains so.
MixedThe Las Vegas WeeklyNovelist Russell Banks proves himself a worthy companion, both for his journeys and yours, in Voyager: Travel Writings. Like the best travel writers, he blends descriptions of settings, observations about customs and personal narratives in these tales ... Perhaps some confession is in order, for, while he is hard enough on himself, he tags his ex-wives with 'simple unchecked hunger for universal centrality,' which seems a cop-out. But he remains with wife four, after 30 years or so, and their trip to Edinburgh to get married is one of the book’s livelier tales. Elsewhere, though, Banks’s lyrically evocative descriptions vie with melancholy about the world and people.
MixedThe Las Vegas Weekly...[a] masterful and mysterious debut novel ... Seay splendidly evokes Venice and its two reflections: the dress, cuisine and intrigues of the merchant republic perched between West and East; the rhythms and desires of Beat-era beach life; and the blare and glare of the Strip during the run-up to the Iraq war. Mirrors are a leitmotif, naturally, but so are memory and its negation. 'Las Vegas is a machine for forgetting,' a character tells Curtis. So are mirrors, in a way, and Seay’s Las Vegas is a mirror for the world.
MixedLas Vegas WeeklyIn The Profiteers, Sally Denton reminds readers that Hoover Dam was not, as many believe, a New Deal project...She has long documented the shadowy relations of wealth and politics...
PositiveThe Las Vegas WeeklyI find these intensely taut, fraught little tales refreshing. They are surreal, but not Kafkaesque, or even Murakami-like. People do not perform impossible activities, experience bizarre events or even say absurd things, so much as they inhabit little worlds of highly condensed experience, all described in the conventional prose of a novel about middle-aged, middle-class people somehow failing to thrive. They pace through plots like expertly crafted androids plagued by software glitches.
MixedThe Las Vegas WeeklyHadley shifts omniscient point-of-view fluidly, a saving grace of a novel that sometimes needs saving. Her turns of phrase occasionally startle more than surprise, and the adult characters’ idiosyncrasies can be tedious. But she deftly weaves together the third-person narratives, assembling a patchwork of crises rooted in the ever-present past.