RaveThe New York Times Book Review... splendid ... Prendergast’s organization is more fruitful than logical...These headings allow Prendergast to quarry nuggets of gold from the vast complexity of Proust’s book ... Prendergast is not biographical or historical, though he is able to draw on his knowledge of Proust’s tastes and foibles. He can relate asthma to the labyrinth of his sentences (Prendergast reminds us that Walter Benjamin traced the very syntax of Proust’s sentences to his ailment) and to his devotion to music in his compositional practices.
Robert Jones Jr
RavePublishers Weekly... powerful and beautiful ... With astonishingly real details, Jones creates a convincing picture of slave life ... Jones’s women are all sharply delineated ... What is unprecedented in this novel is its presentation of the two gay male slaves, each endowed with his own personality, which never merges with a stereotype ... The lyricism of The Prophets will recall the prose of James Baldwin ... If my comparisons seem excessive, they are rivaled only by Jones’s own pages and pages of acknowledgments. It seems it takes a village to make a masterpiece.
PositiveThe London Review of BooksAlthough [Guibert\'s] narcissism may give an antic energy to his prose, fortunately it does not hood his observing eye. His characters are very real indeed and his betrayals as succulent as those Genet promises but seldom delivers ... One of the successful aspects of this book is the portrait of Foucault – something new for Guibert, the observation of someone outside the orbit of his obsessions. The worst part is the recital of grudges, the settling of scores – against Adjani, because she lets her whims interfere with his chance to earn some badly-needed money, and especially against Bill, the friend who did not save his life ... The scandal caused by Guibert’s novel apparently convinced the American drug company in question not to conduct a trial for the Salk vaccine in France, which was judged to be too disputatious a nation.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewI learned so much from this book. Elaine Sciolino is a graceful, companionable writer, someone who speaks about France in the most enjoyably American way ... Sciolino...proceeds from colorful detail to revealing detail, gently informing even as she entertains ... Although I’ve written books about Paris or set there, I never researched the Seine and so never knew some of the many things Sciolino tells us ... Sciolino is a true journalist, more interested in her subject than herself. She isn’t snobbish and is as likely to cite Doris Day as Francis Poulenc, to learn from an old sailor as from a historian ... As a well-informed Parisian cultist, Elaine Sciolino has laid one more beautiful and amusing wreath on the altar of the City of Light.
Juan Carlos Onetti, Trans. by Katherine Silver
PositiveHarpers... Katherine Silver...has managed admirably to preserve the oddness of the original ... If Balzac unrealistically lent all his characters his own dynamism, Onetti’s seem as gloomy and torpid—or ornery—as he himself was ... Every once in a while a character is seized by the sheer ecstasy of being. Not by the beauty of the world or the thrill of intimacy, not by a moment of understanding or a sweet memory, but simply by knowing that one is present, that one exists ... Onetti reads a bit like Faulkner, his hero. Both writers invented a place and, in novel after novel, peopled it with the same characters ... Both Faulkner and Onetti get the metaphysical chills; they are equally astonished by the mere habit of being alive. Similarly, both writers’ characters are almost caricatures, woodcuts rather than watercolors. Onetti may have been a pessimist, but the very beauty and startling unpredictability of his prose attest to his devotion to something—possibly art alone ... Onetti’s style, which can create such lovely scenes of phantasmagoria, can be obscure in other ways. A logical list can degenerate into absurdity ... Or we read a highly detailed but surreal sentence ... The stories collected in this volume are sometimes slight but more often long and strikingly original, especially in the way time contracts and dilates and the plot veers off in unexpected directions. They are also more daring than the novels ... These stories indicate the broad trajectory of Onetti’s career. He was a clear-cut fabulist who turned into a cloudy mythmaker, but who stayed true to his primary vision of a provincial town in the winter rain. He is too difficult ever to be popular, but every writer will admire his distinctive tone and originality of invention.
RaveThe GuardianPatti Smith has a mythic imagination ... genuine devotion to her private artistic saints and to her old friends characterizes the entire book. It is her own Lives of the Saints, and it is thoroughly imbued with faith in her own artistic mission ... Just Kids should interest any reader who wants to know how an artistic career can be launched ... this book brings together all the elements that made New York so exciting in the 1970s—the danger and poverty, the artistic seriousness and optimism, the sense that one was still connected to a whole history of great artists in the past.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewIf you wanted to know what interested the American artistic and intellectual elite in the 1980s, ’90s and early aughts, you couldn’t find a better, truer hologram than the one Ingrid Sischy provided in her essays during those years. She shows us the glitz of that epoch of celebrity culture as well as the serious, thoughtful concerns of its cutting-edge painters and designers; at her best, she enters both domains through her stylish meditations ... Sischy’s genius was that she took philosophy lightly and fashion seriously ... Sischy was inclined toward oddballs, or took an oddball approach to familiar subjects ... Readers exploring this collection of essays will come across many bold ideas ... Her writing is one of the biggest and clearest and well-lit mirrors of our epoch.
Edouard Louis, Trans. Lorin Stein
RaveThe GuardianThanks to translator Lorin Stein [the translation of History of Violence] has retained its complexity, its startling physicality and its moral subtlety in English ... Louis’s greatest strength as a writer is that he feels things so passionately, sometimes to the point of obsession, but that he also has a philosophical turn of mind that explores, rather than neutralises, his feelings.... The novel is superb at vividly recording the post-traumatic repercussions of rape.
Annie Ernaux, Trans. by Alison L. Strayer
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"This is an autobiography unlike any you have ever read; you might call it a collective autobiography … Change happens so imperceptibly that only big events like the collapse of the Berlin Wall or 9/11 allow us to establish a ‘before’ and an ‘after.’ Closer to home, photographs set a time line, as do family holidays, and both are used as markers throughout the book. But because everything, no matter how obscure or distant, is now available on the internet, we inhabit ‘the infinite present’ … Ernaux is always trying to envisage the book she will write — this very book we are reading, in a fluent, idiomatic translation by Alison L. Strayer … The Years is an earnest, fearless book, a Remembrance of Things Past for our age of media domination and consumerism, for our period of absolute commodity fetishism.\
PositiveThe GuardianAt times it has the glacial pace of the original, endless psychological dithering punctuated by brilliant flashes of melodrama. Even stylistically it is a perfect fit: the actual descriptions of places are rather vague, but the metaphors are devoted to extremely vivid, even over-the-top, language ...Banville’s book is faithful to James’s manner, while Tóibín’s avoids the long sentences, the placid descriptions and the hectic metaphors, the ordinary words in inverted commas ... Mrs Osmond is both a remarkable novel in its own right and a superb pastiche. But I found irritating the very mannerisms that try my patience in James.
RaveThe New York Times Sunday Book ReviewA gripping novel, absorbing right to the end, The Sound of Things Falling concerns a young professor of jurisprudence named Antonio who plays billiards every afternoon in Bogotá to unwind after delivering his lecture. In the billiard hall, he befriends a frail older man, Laverde, who, it is rumored, has only recently been released from prison. Standing out in the street, they’re shot at by two men on a passing motorbike. Laverde is killed and Antonio severely wounded … The Sound of Things Falling may be a page turner, but it’s also a deep meditation on fate and death. Even in translation, the superb quality of Vásquez’s prose is evident, captured in Anne McLean’s idiomatic English version. All the novel’s characters are well imagined, original and rounded. Bogotá and the Colombian countryside are beautifully if grimly described.
PositiveThe Guardian... a love letter to Sacks, but also to New York ... The book is what’s called 'reader-friendly,' that is, there’s lots of white space, plenty of photos and not too many long grey columns of type. Overheard remarks, curious reflections by Sacks, poetic observations keep the narrative moving along. Hayes is the poetic sort of guy who might mention he’s just seen fireflies in the city; Sacks is the sort of science nerd who warns that if you swallow more than three fireflies you might die from luciferase.