RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksCatch the Rabbit is a sensitively traced story of female friendship that recalls the troubled bond of Lenù and Lila in [Elena] Ferrante’s novels ... Sara’s attachment to her friend has a Kinbotean quality: she wants to understand Lejla, become her, and annihilate her all at once. Bastašić develops this undercurrent masterfully, exploiting the double sense of lines that seem casual at first sight ... The pleasure of Catch the Rabbit lies in the way Bastašić fuses delicate scenes from a passionate friendship between girls with surreal elements that convey unspoken pains and tender aggressions. As in the best examples of magical realism, the unreal feels true here ... A road trip is the quintessential hero’s journey. Bastašić deliberately hits the marks one might expect if one has read Joseph Campbell on the monomyth, or watched any contemporary Hollywood movie.
Maria Dahvana Headley
PositiveNew York Review of BooksHeadley flattens Beowulf into the mold of twenty-first-century American masculinity in one of its crudest forms. He swaggers into the poem sporting his burnished helmet like a backward baseball hat, and leaves it in a blazing trail of clichés ... Headley pursues a similar line of thought in her Beowulf translation, elevating Grendel’s nameless mother from the aberrant creature of disgust that many other translations make her out to be ... She turns the much-maligned revenger into a \'warrior woman\' and \'reclusive night-queen\' who rules over an otherworldly kingdom ... Surprisingly, Headley is restrained with the poem’s other women, mostly queens and princesses struggling to save themselves and their children as their clans wage war. Subtle choices of diction tease out their powerlessness in a culture shaped by men’s feuds, but beyond this they resemble their Old English counterparts closely. Headley allows herself greater liberty with Beowulf’s beasts and inanimate objects, turning them into an unexpected female supporting cast ... In transforming Beowulf into an allegory of twenty-first-century American toxic masculinity, Headley suppresses some of the complexity of early medieval manhood ... Headley falters when she tries too hard to make Beowulf modern, whether it’s by turning it into an allegory of class struggle or by figuratively putting its hero in a polo shirt. She is astute, however, in recognizing that the medieval epic tells a story about men’s violence that never really ended.
Maryse Condé, Trans. by Richard Philcox
MixedThe Times Literary Supplement (UK)There is no clear through line connecting the disparate incidents she relates. Instead, the reader is treated to a series of reflections on the role of food in the author’s life, interspersed with observations from her travels ... [Condé] rarely gives dates and often leaves out context, lending the book a dreamlike quality ... In other respects, Of Morsels leaves the reader hungry. This is a memoir of stunning emotional reticence. As a rule, Condé speeds past her own motivations and emotions. There are exceptions ... She is also painfully honest, if terse, in describing her relationship with her son, Denis ... a puzzle with a missing piece, and that piece is to be found in Victoire: My mother’s mother, a novelistic reconstruction of the life of a grandmother who died long before Condé’s birth ... Of Morsels and Marvels, with its frustratingly absent emotional core, suggests that Condé is like Victoire not only in the boundless creativity of her expression, but also in its limits. When it comes to the author’s own heartbreak and regret for the ways she hurt her son, words fail her. And, just as her grandmother might have done, she fills the silence with dish after dish.
Daniel Kehlmann, Trans. by Ross Benjamin
RaveThe New York Times Book Review... an impeccable English translation by Ross Benjamin ... a magnificent story of an artist’s transcendence over the petty superstitions, convenient betrayals and widespread brutality of his time ... Tyll’s picaresque tale ranges widely over Europe, but Kehlmann juggles his stories with the dexterity of Ulenspiegel himself ... Even more gripping are scenes with no wink toward the history books ... Kehlmann is a master of economical, devastating description ... Equally chilling are his descriptions of a society in which old kindnesses are forgotten under pressure, where truth matters less than the ability to terrify people into confession, where lies scribbled in Latin become history ... In this exquisitely crafted novel, Kehlmann moves just as nimbly through the grimmest of human experiences. The result is a spellbinding memorial to the nameless souls lost in Europe’s vicious past, whose whispers are best heard in fables.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksWritten in clear, occasionally lyrical prose and seasoned with Tobola’s poems and her students’ writing, the book is a compelling portrayal of education in prison ... She believes fiercely in her work but rarely romanticizes it ... Ultimately, Tobola is clear-eyed about the extent to which both she and the inmates are controlled by the institution ... reveals that art also asks something of us. It demands that we make friends with ambiguity, with vulnerability. It calls on us to attend to the vital creative capacity of others. Art asks that we leave the door open for beauty, whatever its travels have been.
Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksVan der Vliet Oloomi’s unapologetically metatextual romp seems, for a while, intended to flatter readers with an affinity for Borges. There is a pleasure in recognizing her many literary references, an even greater charm in being nonplussed by the occasional allusion to an obscure author or unplaceable quote ... Much like Zebra herself, the novel demands intellectual engagement rather than emotional connection. Despite its lively prose, the story occasionally drags, as Zebra keeps traveling while never seeming to reach her goal. But in denying readers some common pleasures of reading — absorption, escapism, empathy — Van der Vliet Oloomi conveys the cold loneliness of Zebra’s grief all the better.