MixedBookforum\'There is no why\' nicely captures the spirit of The Death of Jesus, a cryptic book about an enigmatic boy who is getting sick of explaining himself ... is mystifying, but it isn’t always subtle ... For something so clearly written, the Jesus trilogy is, as everyone notes, a confusing work of fiction ... That a higher being might look to a social worker like a little boy with a low IQ is a running joke in the Jesus trilogy; but one wonders if a reader, too, might have been baffled, were it not for those tell-all titles ... The titles place us, you might say, in the position of so many parents, convinced on not quite textual grounds that their little boy really is special. As a literary strategy, this is ingenious. It is also ironic, because the effect is to make us, as readers, more like Simón, i.e., a little too sure of ourselves ... the dying boy chastises the living, obscurely, as the literary references pile up, not much more helpful than the medical jargon ... In the Jesus trilogy, Coetzee holds out for a while. He stares into an abyss, the abyss within the mind of a young boy, and even steps up to the edge of it. But in the end he does the math.
MixedBookforumIs there a funnier writer in America than Sam Lipsyte? Not if you find funny, for example, the use of \'whither\' and \'dick-smacked\' in the same sentence ... Much of what feels so good about writing like this is the feeling that it shouldn’t be working. It is too fancy and, at the same time, the opposite of that ... The idea seems to be less to strip words away than to follow the words to where they’re actually going ... Lipsyte’s new novel, Hark, also centers on a form of language that may not make sense, but still works ... It’s as though Lipsyte read the Dyer review and decided to prove the critic wrong, that stylists could tell stories too. It’s also as though he wearied of the task partway and opted to revert to his usual tricks. The result is a book with a lot of loose ends, abrupt bloodshed, and burlesque gags taken to the brink, and occasionally over the brink ... It’s hard to say if what we’re reading is dystopian fiction or just heightened reportage ... No writer alive today is better at making art out of verbal garbage.
Karl Ove Knausgaard, Trans. by Don Bartlett & Martin Aitken
RaveBookforum\"In its long, wandering sentences, in which so much that is unalike is swept up and suspended, the grammar seems to stretch to accommodate this contradiction: that details mean both nothing and everything ... This uncertainty as to seriousness, of not knowing what the weight of experience is—the literary term is bathos—is My Struggle’s pervasive feeling. It’s the feeling, both thrilling and confusing, of encountering somebody who doesn’t know the unwritten rules. They are unwritten because they are deep inside us; they are the rules of society, which are part of our identity. On every page of My Struggle we are reminded of these rules, which human beings follow instinctively and as a matter of self-preservation, because Knausgaard disregards them. We feel viscerally that he shouldn’t be telling us what we nonetheless can’t stop reading because we know exactly what he means.
PositiveBookforumThe Rub of Time, his new collection of nonfiction, brings together his occasional work dating back to 1994. Like everything Amis writes, it is a showcase, and it gives you a sense of his personal canon ... Devout fans will already have drunk with Amis a \'pensive pint\' or two, and heard a variety of things \'whimper with neglect.\' So some of the furniture isn’t new. A reader might complain, more generally, that Amis has been over much — really, nearly all — of this ground before... In Rub, though, we see a man whom age has sobered declare, in a Q&A with The Independent, that he is through with \'insulting people in print\' (a \'vice of youth\') ... Some writers help you to see the world. Amis makes it so you can’t unsee it. It is a singular gift. Naturally, it is not to everyone’s taste.
RaveBookforumWhile it’s not a sequel to The Privileges, it could be that book’s counterpart, or consequence. It’s the other side of the late-capitalist equation that gave the Moreys more and more, and it too suggests a vision of how the world ends … The story of a man of few charms but great net worth who, citing Adam Smith as he goes, reaches out with his invisible hand and pussy-grabs a piece of the Berkshires, The Locals has an air of satire, but there’s nothing in here that’s implausible. It’s more like a tragedy about people who allow themselves to be made ridiculous. At times, we might be reading a magazine article about the rural death spiral that birthed the Trump voter. They’re deplorable, these locals, but are they culpable? … Dee has written a book against sentimentality, and while brilliant it is unforgiving.
RaveBookforumA protagonist of a certain age, who seeks renewal in a rustic setting, and who then anoints an Indian as his guide back from decadent urban living to a more primal mode of being—it’s a classic, if not trite, story line of self-discovery, but Christopher Sorrentino’s smart and mordant novel soon subverts it with bitter élan.
Garth Risk Hallberg
MixedBookforumRaising more questions than it answers, Hallberg’s novel spins with its heroes rather gloriously in this dialectic of dark and light, among complexities from which the soothing simplicity of its final lines could not be further.