PositiveThe San Francisco ChronicleThe artist-characters in Some Trick, Helen DeWitt’s new collection of bitingly hilarious stories, discover that integrity and commercial success are incompatible, or at most a fluke that can’t be replicated without sacrificing one’s sanity and/or soul ... DeWitt’s prose itself suggests improvisation’s blissful illusion of freedom. What a delight to have her back. Here’s hoping another novel’s on the way—and soon.
Alain Mabanckou, Trans. by Helen Stevenson
RaveThe San Francisco ChronicleBlack Moses adds to his cycle of novels set in Pointe-Noire, the coastal city where he grew up. Any of these novels makes a fine introduction to the author. Or one could start with Letters to Jimmy, his book-length essay on James Baldwin, approached from an African perspective ...the protagonist of Black Moses is defined by the absence of family. The book is split in two. The first half is set in the orphanage where the protagonist lives until age 13, and the second in Pointe-Noire, following the years after his escape ...Mabanckou populates his tale with a range of colorful supporting characters who tell the narrator their stories...Mabanckou’s handling of time produces breaks and accelerations that make readers share in the narrator’s own sense of dislocation and inevitability.
Juan Gabriel Vásquez
RaveThe San Francisco Chronicle....a profound, exquisitely observed, suspenseful and deeply moving novel. It confirms his status as one of the very finest writers of our time ... Reputations achieves technical mastery without sacrificing readability. Vazquez moves seamlessly between past and present, and from the particular to the general.
RaveThe San Francisco ChronicleTo some degree, The Vegetarian may be read as a feminist allegory, a tale of what might befall a woman who rebels against patriarchal oppression. Beyond gender, Yeong-hye’s story extends to anyone who would say no to the order of things, anyone who senses that such order is maintained by the blood of others ... an existential nightmare, as evocative a portrayal of the irrational as I’ve come across in some time.
Kenzaburo Oe, Trans. by Deborah Boehm
RaveSan Francisco ChronicleDeath by Water masterfully captures the vertigo of this old writer’s vivid inner world. That he accomplishes this while also looking outward — exploring the state of a nation and the passing of a generation, and what stands to be lost in the process — is nothing short of remarkable.