RaveLambda LiteraryMultifaceted and inclusive ... memorable from cover to cover ... This edition of the anthology is much more representative of the diversity in the LGBT community than in 2008, the year Wilde Stories first saw publication ... a fine read, with every story a highlight. Berman’s choices are usually excellent, and the book displays the quality that readers have come to expect from Lethe Press. The annual collection will be missed.
PositiveThe Seattle TimesNight Train: New and Selected Stories is a most welcome chance to celebrate Jones’ legacy. It’s a greatest-hits collection, featuring the best of his three books. All of Jones’ obsessions—Vietnam, drugs, boxing, fractured families, manual labor, dogs, death—are gathered under one roof in a glorious cacophony, elbowing each other and demanding to be heard. His authorial voice, and the voice he gave to his characters, was there from the start, in the dead-run opening of The Pugilist at Rest, the story that went from the slush pile at The New Yorker to an O.
PositiveThe Seattle Times\"[Ide\'s] dialogue is clever and advances the narrative, and he knows how to stage an action scene. Some of his locations are a little too obviously camera-ready — a junkyard, a warehouse, the big rave-up at Burning Man — but the people who bought the TV rights surely won’t mind ... The IQ series doesn’t have the depth and sweep of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins novels — not yet, anyway — but Ide is following Mosley’s lead in using an unlicensed detective in Greater Los Angeles to tell a larger story about who we are and how we live.\
PositiveThe Seattle Times\"Ohio is not for the squeamish. Opioids (and every other drug), gang rape, torture, murder, suicide, domestic terrorism, wartime atrocities—it’s all there, described in feverish prose that reaches for the stars and sometimes lands on the pavement ... For every misfire, there are a dozen triumphs, large and small. The characters walk and talk like real, messed-up people; the author cares about them, and so does the reader.\
RaveThe Seattle TimesShteyngart, the author of Absurdistan and Super Sad True Love Story, is an observant writer who knows what to do when a good idea smacks him in the face ... His new novel Lake Success combines the passive-aggressive takeover of New York by the Bros of Wall Street — a subject worthy of Tom Wolfe — with a road novel that echoes Kerouac’s buzzy restlessness and Nabokov’s sly observations. It’s Shteyngart’s best book, a deeper dive into what’s happening now with a plaintive edge that fits the moment.
Daniel de Vise
PositiveThe Seattle Times\'Quick quiz: Name an American bicycle racer.
Easy, Lance Armstrong. Name another one.
Uhhhh ….\' It’s a shame that the only cyclist most Americans have heard of is a liar, a bully and a cheat, a man who sued those who told the truth about him and tried to ruin their lives ... The real hero, the name everyone should know, is Greg LeMond, the first American to win the Tour de France ... Daniel de Visé’s The Comeback is explicitly designed to elevate LeMond into the pantheon. It succeeds because LeMond does have an abundance of heroic qualities: he is a sexual-abuse survivor, a gifted athlete and a technical innovator, a modest man in an ego-driven sport who overcame anti-American prejudice and deceit from competitors and teammates, and a truth-teller who suffered greatly for speaking out against Armstrong.
PositiveThe Seattle Times\"For the last 20 years, Native American literature has been dominated by two writers, Sherman Alexie and Louise Erdrich, who have concentrated on the reservation experience. Orange comes from a different generation and has a different perspective, funny and profane and conscious of the violence that runs like a scar through American culture.\
MixedThe Seattle Times\'Perky Noir\' ... It’s the perfect two-word expression for a novel that starts out as a fairly straightforward yarn about a sad-sack bartender named Sammy whose world is rocked by a daffy waitress with a past ... It all hangs together, just barely, if you don’t care too much about plot and structure. Moore sure doesn’t ... Moore’s all about the zany and the zinger ... Sometimes this House of Silly collapses on itself and sometimes it’s as solid as Alcatraz during an earthquake.
PositiveThe Seattle TimesSelf-Portrait with Boy is a confident first novel with a lot going for it. The moral dilemma Lyon sets up is explored with intelligence and grace ... Best of all is Rile’s voice, snappish and self-aware and scared, taking on the world while being devoured by it, reaching out to touch the ghosts that float above the East River.
RaveThe Seattle Times\"It’s a busy novel, and a brainy one, built more on character than plot. Zumas, who teaches at Portland State University, has a lovely way with a sentence and a sharp understanding of how women can be jealous and supportive of each other in equal measure. The coastal setting is vividly rendered, as is the everyday reality of doctor appointments, dirty dishes and broken dreams.\
PositiveThe San Francisco ChronicleTwo weeks before his death, Sacks completed the outline for The River of Consciousness, a collection that serves as a valedictory, as well as a useful introduction to his restless intellect and elegant sentences and a tribute to his scientific and philosophical heroes: Darwin, Freud and William James. There is no unifying theme or subject — no meditation on autism or field study from an atoll in the South Pacific with a high incidence of colorblindness — but the passage of time is much on Sacks’ mind ... The River of Consciousness is more meditative and serves as a selective tour of the history of science, with Sacks serving as an enthusiastic guide.
PositiveThe Portland OregonianThe [characters’] motives are all over the studio lot, and Walter takes time to give each an extended back story. He's a witty, sharply observant writer, an American version of Nick Hornby, who loves Walter's books. Like Hornby (and like Irving), Walter has done some time in Hollywood and can skewer its pretensions, and like those two writers he has a sentimental streak that needs to be kept on a tight leash … There's a lot of tricky shifting of time and setting that a less experienced novelist wouldn't have attempted and that Walter almost doesn't pull off. His exuberance carries him past whatever problems he creates for himself, and the scripts and memoirs are even funnier than the stock market verse in his last novel, The Financial Lives of the Poets. It's so obvious that Walter's having so much fun with this stuff that it becomes infectious.
PositiveThe Seattle TimesWild Things is presented as a smart look at children’s literature by a lifelong reader who loved books as a child and rediscovered them as a parent. It is that, and it does make some serious points about fantasy and death and how children use reading to learn critical thinking and find a place in the world. But what it’s really about is a series of opinionated profiles of the Kid Lit pantheon ... The opinionated, biography-with-zingers approach plays to Handy’s strengths as an editor for Vanity Fair and a former writer for Saturday Night Live and is great fun for those interested in colorful facts about their favorite children’s book authors ... Handy gives his favorite children’s books a close reading and uncovers one shiny nugget after another about the men and women who wrote them. His book doesn’t hang together, but to hear him tell it, Treasure Island and its 'unfollowable plot' don’t either.
MixedThe Boston GlobeIt’s a big book with a bright, damaged young woman at its center and a twisty, movie-ready plot that’s a little bit Alfred Hitchcock, a little bit Shutter Island ... The dialogue and plotting are typically Lehane sharp, but there’s oddly little sense of place, a stunning departure from the writer who caught Boston’s grit in his Patrick Kenzie/Angie Gennaro novels...The atmosphere he created so memorably in that novel, the history that falls like leaves on a graveyard and makes Boston fertile ground for crime fiction, is replaced by stale descriptions of crowds outside Fenway and industrial decay in Rhode Island ... Hollywood will love it — there is much to admire and filmmakers are not bound by the book when it comes to creating atmosphere. Some readers, however, especially fans, may feel different about at least that part.
PositiveThe San Francisco Chronicle...meaty enough to withstand comparison to The Raw and the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourmand, Harrison’s 2002 collection culled mostly from Esquire, without being overpowering. The pieces in A Really Big Lunch are a little more digressive and self-congratulatory — Harrison name-drops meals shared with Orson Welles, Federico Fellini and Jack Nicholson — and are stuffed with the opinions he tossed off with glee ... His food essays are best consumed in small doses, one or two at a time, to avoid discomfort and bloating.
MixedThe Seattle TimesAt his best, Shields is a lit-crit star: smart, funny, observant, engaging, daring, original. His prose has an open, easy flow that’s unusual for a career academic and makes his ideas easier to digest ... It all circles back to No. 1, though, and that can sometimes make reading Other People feel like being trapped on the express train to Brown University with a bunch of half-drunk semioticians. Shields is a sharp critic, of others and himself, but for every breathtaking insight there’s a corresponding face-palm.
PositiveThe Seattle TimesFans of The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights, memoirs about the death of Dunne and of their daughter, respectively, might expect more personal revelation, but Didion has always held herself at a distance, describing people and events with icy precision from a safe space in the corner. ... a short trip, full of piercing little moments that influenced several of Didion’s later books, and worth taking.
J. M. Coetzee
PanThe Boston GlobeThere is a lot of high-minded gasbagging about numerology and the stars and passion and innocence. Coetzee uses a flat, affectless style with few modifiers and treats plot and character development as nuisances to be brushed aside ... Coetzee is 77 and has been a restless experimentalist throughout his career, never afraid to try a fresh approach while remaining grounded in philosophy and a classic literature. Two allusions in Schooldays are typical of his approach — they’re intelligent but incidental to the narrative. They don’t build meaning or add character; they’re just there ... The Schooldays of Jesus is an argument in search of a story, a sequel that isn’t very good from an author who knows better.
RaveThe Seattle Times...a novel that like Faulkner’s masterpiece uses multiple narrators, stream of consciousness, and the fractured thoughts of an innocent child to tell a story about the destruction of a family and the struggle and endurance of a country stained by slavery ... In a 2013 commencement address at Syracuse University, Saunders implored the new graduates to incline toward the big questions, ignore the trivial, and discover 'the luminous part of you that exists beyond personality — your soul, if you will.' His novel follows the same path, and gets there.
PositiveThe Seattle TimesA Really Good Day is two parts 'momoir' and one part amicus curiae brief by a woman who taught a course on the legal implications of the war on drugs. It’s an odd combination. She’s funny when revealing that she got her LSD testing kit on Amazon, serious when she makes the point that LSD, an illegal drug, is no more harmful and has far fewer side effects than all those antidepressants she took. But make no mistake, LSD is illegal. Waldman was breaking the law by possessing some, and shut down her experiment when she ran out after 30 days because it was too risky. Microdosing does sound promising for those suffering from depression — but there have been no officially sanctioned studies, nor are any likely in the U.S. given the current political climate. Waldman had some really good days and carved out some psychic space for herself, and got a book out of the experience. That’s a trip worth taking.
RaveThe San Francisco Chronicle...a remarkable book ... The book covers the same events [as the film] but goes deeper and takes a wider, more personal view ... It’s not easy to balance solid journalism with intimate understanding of a subject, and even harder to write eloquently about a disease that’s killing your friends and loved ones. France pulls it off.
MixedThe Seattle TimesShelter in Place is an absorbing, frustrating psychological study that goes deep into the forest but doesn’t do enough to distinguish one tree from another. The emotional insight is there but the characters remain sketchy, figures circling around Joe’s beautiful, twisted mind.
PositiveThe Wall Street Journal...a riveting story that zigzags in unexpected directions. The author sometimes loses her narrative thread, but her enthusiasm never lags.
PositiveThe Seattle Times...lifts its subject out of the genre ghetto and makes a convincing case that Jackson was a courageous woman in a male-dominated field whose themes resonate strongly today.
PositiveThe Seattle TimesMcInerney created a likable couple — a rarity in modern fiction — and set them loose in his world ... Readers who don’t recognize Russell and Corrine, or haven’t checked in with McInerney in 30 years, will have no problem enjoying these Bright, Precious Days, either as a smart summer read or an invitation into the world of an underrated writer. The plot’s a bit thin but McInerney’s eye is sharper than ever. He’s onto something and he knows it.
PositiveThe San Francisco ChronicleThe Latter Days is clean, strong and deep, a raging river of a story that its author carried until she couldn’t hold it back. It is an arrow straight from Mormon country, from the Mountain West and from the heart.
PositiveThe Seattle Times'He was becoming harder and harder to comprehend,' Williams writes in the 73rd of her Ninety-Nine Stories of God. People have been saying that for centuries, few with the sly wonder of Williams ... [The] short shorts aren’t all about God, not directly, and they’re not aphorisms or Zen koans or one-page treatments for busy movie executives. They’re highly evolved examples of flash fiction.
PositiveThe Seattle Times...a novel of ideas that’s deeply emotional....a meditation on love and death by someone who’s standing at the crossroads at dusk, knowing what’s behind him and wondering what’s ahead ... It’s elliptical and maddening and profound, all the deep thoughts and deeper meanings, stones dropped into a pond that send ever-wider rings toward the shore.
RaveThe Oregonian[McCann's] story 'Sh'Khol,' included in Thirteen Ways of Looking, is as fine a piece of short fiction as I've read in the last five years. It's haunting and surprising, like everything from this amazing writer.