PositiveThe Guardian (UK)Bringing forward the release of Madhouse at the End of the Earth before Covid restrictions were eased on the grounds that it was the ultimate lockdown read. Or maybe now is the perfect time to publish it as, venturing gingerly out again, we find ourselves succumbing to lockdown nostalgia ... Sancton’s own prose serves the reader well as he negotiates a path through what must have been a submerged mass of research documents ... he coaxes his material into a watertight narrative. One member of the crew goes completely mad, the rest are exhausted, enervated, listless, forced to reassert themselves against their captivity when the sun reappears and the slow thaw brings hope and a new set of dangers. We’ll leave them there, two-thirds of the way through this utterly enthralling book. Some of them, we know, will survive – and we also know that by 1926 Cook will be locked up in Kansas. How on earth, we wonder, does he wind up there?
Michel Houellebecq, trans. by Frank Wayne
PositiveLA Weekly\'It’s not up to me to invent or adopt new attitudes or new affinities with the world,\' Michel declares at the beginning of the book. It is a tribute to the unvarying insistence with which Houellebecq presents his peculiar dis-affinity with the world that, 200 pages later, any ethical reservations the reader might have had at the outset have pretty well fallen away ... Michel’s glimpse of lifelong happiness becomes a measure of the depths of the misery to which he will soon be violently returned. The novel ends in resignation and despair, but along the way it accommodates a skewed and lyrical vision of romantic longing and fulfillment.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe Memory Chalet — most of which first appeared in The New York Review of Books — form a mosaic of autobiographical fragments and a restatement of views more or less familiar from his earlier, less personal writings ... With his own life drawing to a close Judt sees the era of social mobility, of which he was the beneficiary, and uncompromisingly high standards, of which he was the embodiment, coming to an end. The elegiac tone is more than simply personal: it’s a reminder that England, for all its failings, will never lose its capacity to generate lament ... With its vivid haze of detail, The Memory Chalet is the work of a historian forced to do without many of the tools on which he had placed the greatest reliance ... You can almost sense the soul of the historian leaving his body, leaving the still-living body of work behind.
PositiveThe Guardian\"It\'s not that Open reads as if it\'s been written with a view to a lucrative serial deal (normal enough); it reads as if it\'s already a serialisation of itself with potential headlines ... Reading about [a match against Becker] is as thrilling as watching it on TV. So is the blow-by-blow recreation of the 2006 match against Baghdatis – more physically bruising than the one against Becker, but with the added appeal of mutual respect and graciousness thrown in ... For all the lurid revelations, despite the overarching story of personal growth and the struggle for self-awareness, the most enthralling parts of the book are all about… tennis.\
RaveThe GuardianBasically, the more style you have, the less plot you need. So if it takes little time to sketch the plot of Sam Lipsyte\'s The Ask, that\'s a backhanded way of saying it\'s a stylistic tour de force ... what a ride it is. We\'re pinned back in our seats by the prose\'s headlong momentum; we\'re craning forward to see what\'s coming next ... The Ask is full of amazing swerves in diction, sudden ascents and plunging descents in register (in the space of a page, and often in a single sentence); it affords breathtaking views of the social landscape of \'late capitalism\' ...
There are strong traces, here and elsewhere—especially in the dialogue—of Don DeLillo. Lipsyte has absorbed DeLillo\'s concept of the novel as neon essay, dialogue as deadpan rhythm section, character as discursive figment of the real. That\'s why the aforementioned roller coaster [of prose] is all the time curling back on itself, offering vertiginous glimpses of its own construction, the stuff from which it is made: the American language ... the comparison that demands to be made is with Martin Amis\'s Money: there\'s a similar intensity and voltage to the language, the same vaulting confidence in the ability of the pyrotechnic monologue to fix a historical moment.
Dag Solstad, Trans. by Tiina Nunnally
PositiveThe GuardianThe loop of anxiety induced by...memory feeds into another loop ... Singer is very similar to Solstad’s other narrators and protagonists who drift through the novels named after them, brooding on their lot by fixating on very little ... At one point Singer notices how a certain couple \'shared the same perception of reality.\' Solstad’s construction of reality is uniquely his own ... I confess that this verbal world of his—mad, sad and funny—often teeters on the brink of being boring. But that feeling merges into another that is quite thrilling as the behavioral possibilities of the novel are subtly and fundamentally enlarged.
RaveThe Guardian\"He led a certain life and found ways of giving expression to that life, with varying degrees of imaginative embellishment. After a while, that too – the expressing, the inventing – became parts of the life which were, in turn, folded into the mix, so he wrote about being a writer, though this writer both was and was not the author of the book you’re now reading about … The secret of all this is the shifting wattage, the slipshod magnificence and crazy wonder of the Johnsonian sentence. Clause by clause, word by word, anything becomes plausible. Control is achieved through willing proximity to its loss. It seems he’s ‘just filling a notebook with jazz,’ but then these directionless improvisations acquire the weight of stories.\
RaveThe GuardianFinkel...subordinated everything to his subjects, to what they experienced and saw. Michael Emory is shot in the head on the roof of a building. James Harrelson burns to death in a Humvee after it is blown up by an IED. Even more harrowing than the violence is its aftermath, first as comrades and medics try to save the injured, then as the CO visits survivors in hospital back in the US … How to convey the inner workings of ravaged minds? By moving, almost inevitably, towards the novelistic...The movement into metaphor here is anchored firmly in the sequence of actions.
RaveThe New York Times Sunday Book ReviewLike the flag raisers of Iwo Jima, the men of Bravo have been whisked back to the United States for a two-week victory tour, climaxing, on the day of the novel, with an appearance at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium … Within 50 pages things are coming nicely into focus, from ‘the woody grain of the turkey’ served up as part of a gigantic buffet, to the shifting choreography of the squad’s dealings with their adoring public … Fountain keeps the reader’s plate piled high. It all happens in tandem; by the time Billy falls for his cheerleader we are in love with the book, and that love finds expression in more and wilder laughter … The book seems like nothing else so much as a single wonderful scene — with a brief intermission at Billy’s home — from which all traces of initial uncertainty have been removed.