PositiveThe Brooklyn Rail... seven imaginative and compelling short stories, and, finally, a provocative short novel, called Indigo Run, which makes me believe she has a novel in her.
MixedThe Brooklyn RailThis heterodox book breaks many literary conventions, making it occasionally hard to follow. Orthodoxy, unlike it was for William Warburton, isn’t my doxy, but this heterodoxy can get confusing and sometimes paradoxical ... Many of the...essays, seeped in emotion, are nicely written ... Reading the book (regardless of whether the text shape-shifts) has an emotionally hypnotic effect, and despite its starts and stops, its digressions and regressions, it hardly matters whether it is a true story, as Claudia’s mother would have it.
PositiveThe Brooklyn RailAn exciting page turner with plenty of dark and quirky characters ... an exciting page turner with plenty of dark and quirky characters ... Banville’s crime novels, those Greene-like entertainments, though, are written in \'as plain a style as possible, he says. That style is more akin to Raymond Chandler than [Henry] James.
T. C. Boyle
RaveThe Boston GlobeHowlingly marvelous ... The novel is one of Boyle’s recent best, as good as his previous novel...a National Book Award finalist ... Boyle’s masterly storytelling and shrewd social commentary have much in common with Charles Dickens; his laid-back, colloquial prose is maximalist rather than minimalist, with a touch of acute satire ... Taken out of context — like scenes in much of Dickens — these may sound absurd and melodramatic, but Boyle renders them believable ... If you’re willing to suspend your disbelief about anthropomorphism, you’ll enjoy this gripping and inescapably bittersweet book, in which Boyle suggests our debt to our predetermined animal natures.
PositiveThe Brooklyn RailA tightly-written, well-researched, and suspenseful novel ... The ending of Phase Six offers little hope. About the only encouraging aspect of the story is the implied prediction that we survived COVID-19. Shepard’s fictional world doesn’t seem to be so lucky with its second pandemic. Will we? Phase Six is a very good and worthy book. But, damn, this was one tough read. Buy Shepard’s book. Just wait a while before you read it.
PositiveThe Brooklyn RailThis novel is tightly written, tense and solemn, but there are some comical moments, although unfunny to the characters ... You don’t have to get all the references to and to the fiction of D. H. Lawrence, who made enough obscure references himself to make your eyes glaze over, to enjoy this novel, but it certainly adds to the demonic fun of it all.
Caleb Azumah Nelson
PositiveThe Brooklyn RailNelson tells Open Water in the second person, which can seem contrived and off-putting for an entire novel, but the technique is, for the most part, successful and augments that feeling of universality so that when you read, you tend to interject yourself as the you of the story. His prose, too, is graceful, rhythmic, and Nelson heightens the novella’s sense of immediacy by writing in the present tense—things happen to you now ... Nelson’s story is a kind of music that captures the rhythms of joy, anguish, and love.
RaveThe Boston GlobeWhether they take place in Ireland, Texas, Illinois, Amsterdam, or Scotland, the marvelous stories in The Souvenir Museum, Elizabeth McCracken’s impressive third story collection evoke moving depictions of marriage and parenthood, and love, betrayal, and loneliness ... In McCracken’s dramatic and often humorous stories you’ll find a goluptious coterie of eccentric and fascinating, if not entirely likable, characters whose stories unfold in a steady stream of exquisite writing. Evocative and often droll turns of phrase concoct mental images of shoes that are \'damp as oysters,\' voices brew like \'hot cider,\' flesh can be \'so fair-skinned as to be combustible,\' and the \'hatred of castoffery came upon her like an allergy.\' Inanimate objects come to life, too.
RaveThe Boston Globe... illustrated by painter and photographer Lia Halloran, [this] is an exuberant, flashcard-size book of 13 chapters with, naturally, a black cover that draws you in, as it depicts an astronaut similarly attracted toward a mirror-like sphere, perhaps exploring it. Levin takes us on a virtual adventure to black holes, a safe trip that we can actually survive as long as we stay far enough away. Her writing is clear and so colloquial that it sometimes seems as though she’s right there chatting with you, telling a story in a conversation so compelling that you hardly notice the complexity of the actual physics. That’s her trick of talking about science to a lay audience ... Not only is Levin a brilliant physicist, she’s a gifted writer, sensitive to language and its nuances ... From her new book’s first chapter \'Entrance\' to its final one \'Exit,\' Levin’s writing is heightened by an often poetic voice ... this is a science book for poets.
RaveThe Brooklyn RailFive of the six stories in her new collection, The Office of Historical Corrections, are as good as the best stories in her first book ... it’s good to see that her talent extends to longer work, as the best story in this book is the novella and social satire ... All of Evans’s characters are sharply and realistically drawn; and she has no problem, as her novella proves, manipulating the intricacies of plotting longer work ... I can’t wait for her first novel. Let’s hope it’s less than 10 years away and certainly no more than that.
RaveThe Brooklyn Rail... an intriguing story ... Boyd reveals fascinating central and minor characters with hidden and often double lives ... You might think that these eccentric movie types would be a tad stereotypical, but Boyd manages to make believable, and sometimes humorous and pitiable people out of his major characters and even the supporting cast. Even minor characters like the gay private investigator, the FBI agent, and the Special Branch inspector seem interesting and true to life ... a fine, well-tuned novel with plenty of perfectly-paced drama, wit, and intriguing plot twists that accompany its more serious themes about privacy, secrecy, and Camus’s one fundamental philosophical question from which all questions follow. Since Boyd’s story is populated mostly with film folks, and knowing that Boyd has had his hand in screenplays and plays, I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t write the screenplay for this story, even if film doesn’t quite reveal what’s going on in those masked and private human heads as perfectly as the novel.
MixedThe Brooklyn RailIf Lethem intended this story to be allegorical like The Feral Detective, he doesn’t quite succeed, but has a lot of fun trying ... Told in very short chapters that make it feel like a page-turner, the story moves along at a decently fast pace, with several funny and entertaining scenes and half-scenes along the way, but the plot fizzles out ... Lethem writes with punnish good humor and real wit as he builds up quite a cordon of tension about what might happen now that Todbaum and his supercar have arrived. But the novel’s tension sizzles away as the peaceful Tinderwickians decide to sacrifice Todbaum.
RaveThe Boston Globe... unfolds slowly and, as with Clegg’s first novel, depends upon character studies and histories to tell its story from multiple viewpoints. As usual, Clegg’s prose is simple and graceful, his third-person character portraits precise, but his plotting, with its intricate, keen-minded twists give his writing the cumulative effect of poetic ambiguity and mystery. Clegg’s first novel was a novel of grief; this is a masterly story of an attempt at righting the misunderstandings of the past that is resonant and true to life’s inherent uncertainty ... the plots converge — a technique that Clegg expertly uses in his previous novel and again here. The result is not a tale of grief, but a poignant story about an earnest attempt to correct the misunderstandings of the past by the end of the day ... shifts from character to character without, for the most part, any transition, much like a hard cut between disparate scenes in a movie. Eventually, the novel, as they say, teaches you how to read it, and after a while the shifting viewpoints and multiple time frames begin to make so much sense that you doubt that Clegg could tell the story in any other way. His approach — resolving the present by slowly revealing the past — creates and maintains an atmosphere of mystery and suspense — the ticking bomb.
PositiveThe Brooklyn RailThere\'s a sumptuous fullness of language to the writing, lively metaphors, and a sense of humor that make for a wonderful narrative. But before you decide to read this book, ask yourself if a thriller about catastrophe, class, and racism is something you really want to read during a real pandemic and actual political turmoil ... That uncertainty about the \'why\' and the lack of details about what will happen to everyone is awfully similar to the actual predicament we’re in now. You can enjoy this book, as I did, with the thought that things in our real world could be worse. It could end.
PositiveAmericaLivio offers three reasons for writing his new book, but the most compelling reason to read this biography is the relevance of Galileo’s famous political and religious struggles to today’s problems. Livio, an astrophysicist, is able to portray science in a way that laypersons can understand. His writing in Galileo is straightforward and conversational, and he is at home in storytelling mode, especially when he relates some of Galileo’s exuberant disagreements with other scientists and some Jesuit mathematicians and astronomers..
RaveThe Boston Globe... this story, with its beer-inspired and home-brewed philosophy, its funny and painful moments, is about love, and not just the love of beer (as the cover art suggests). It’s about love and the remembrance of love between friends, lovers, and family ... Doyle’s narrative style is fast-paced and deceptively easy to read ... But Love is surprisingly weighty. Doyle has put the story in Davy’s mouth as dialogue, interrupted by a few short bits of narration, that goes down as smoothly as gulps of beer. But Joycean dialogue set off with a single em-dash can be confusing, and it’s sometimes hard to identify dialogue as it flows into narration ... it’s easy to imagine Doyle adapting Love, this brilliant two-character story, as a movie with Davy and Joe crawling the pubs and dueling with conflicting memories as their stories flash back to the pubs and women from their past.
PositiveThe Christian Science MonitorThe narrative flows like a novel with many plot lines, and you don’t need to be a Shakespeare scholar or a historian to enjoy this well-researched book ... [Shapiro] succeeds in presenting an even-handed account of Shakespeare and American politics, though his observations, comments, and conclusions convey an unmistakably liberal viewpoint.
PositiveThe Brooklyn RailIn a sense, Yoon presents war as something of a major character that influences nearly everything from life in all its forms: human, plant, animal, to nature itself. The obscenity—the killing, torture, and bombings—are mostly accomplished off-page or as half scenes, yet the revenge-killing of an interrogator is rather graphic ... The multiple viewpoints in different eras sometimes include embedded flash-backs and flash-forwards that can be a challenge to follow. But succeeding chapters from Khit’s viewpoint help clarify the timeline ... Yoon’s writing, as in his earlier work, is graceful and understated, and amazingly enough that understated grace truthfully depicts the obscenity of war.
MixedThe Oregonian... the sort of fiction that I’d typically call vignettes, a word too highfalutin to describe these pieces. Most of them are light-hearted, zany and crazy bordering on comic-sociopathic, which makes them fun to read, almost like watching squirrels fighting over their walnut treasures. Or not — depending on your temperament ... A few of the stories broach a serious social topic or two, but most read like anecdotes. I suppose the subtitle \'Fictional Nonfiction\' is intended as a clever oxymoron, but it comes across as a gimmicky way to sell more books, since nonfiction generally sells better than fiction ... Klosterman is a fine, popular nonfiction writer. His fiction, though, is a grab-bag of gags, gimmicks and jokes, most of which are entertaining. Some stand up as more than just light entertainment; others fall with barely a thud. But each is short enough to parse through, chuckle, and continue reading the next gag, even on the hottest summer day.
RaveThe Brooklyn Rail... a compelling story about immigrants, drawing from his knowledge of the area and its people ... He tackles the topical issue of immigration on the southern border without proselytizing ... Indeed, it is a story that transcends politics—a fiction to tell a truer truth ... The more ambitious Where We Come From covers a larger canvas and likewise reveals some truths about family roots, despair, poverty, and a dream for a better life. In order to tell this immense story effectively, Cásares uses a traditional, omniscient third-person viewpoint ... That narrative viewpoint succeeds, for the most part, as characters are revealed from within as well as from the outside ... Where We Come From is an imperfectly great novel, and in it Cásares tackles a subject that could easily fall apart due to sentimentality or by trying to make political points ... a thought-provoking read from a master storyteller whose unrelenting realism is often heartrending.
RaveThe Brooklyn Rail... has a colloquial feel to it, with occasional bursts of eloquence primarily arising from the words of Martin Luther King Jr. and their effect on the young protagonist ... As political statement—The Nickel Boys is a reminder of where we have been and a warning not to go there again, despite the lunacy of our present leadership. As literature,it’s difficult to tell what criteria the Pulitzer committee might choose when it awards its prize for fiction. Often, it seems to favor inventive form over sociological-political substance. Sometimes it’s a combination thereof. Other times it seems the committee’s criteria is anyone’s guess. But Whitehead\'s novel is poignant, relevant, well-written, and about as perfect as a novel can be. Like The Underground Railroad, The Nickel Boys is certain to make the Booker Prize longlist. It might even win.
RaveThe Brooklyn RailTo call her work \'magical realism,\' as some have, is to slight her writing ... Her imaginative stories find new ways to tell age-old tales, and sometimes a description of the plot of the stories seems so absurd that it sounds preposterous. But Russell is accomplished enough for her tales to be accepted as serious fiction ... Almost any writer could write a story about a boy and a girl who elope after their first date and travel through the desert on a kind of honeymoon. \'The Bad Graft\' is a love story that only Russell could write, blending evolutionary biology and ancient myth ... fantastical and often hilarious ... Russell, along with Lauren Groff, Allison Amend, and Rebecca Makkai, is one of the best younger writers around ... A master storyteller.
PositiveThe Brooklyn RailThe history is compelling, and it\'s an integral component of the big magical picture ... Frisch often mentions websites where you can look up and watch magic—one of the coolest features of the book. But it\'s also one of its weaknesses: When Frisch says you can find a video of a trick online, you\'re apt to leave the book and go find the video. Then you Google some more about sleight of hand, close-up magic, card manipulation, and get back to reading later ... Short biographies and anecdotes make the book personal, revealing the secret lives of magicians ... Frisch crushes it with a cool debut. The book is funny, illuminating, and personal. To paraphrase Frisch, the book is not really about card tricks or stage illusions, it\'s about adjusting the lens through which you view magic and, consequently, the world.
RaveThe Brooklyn Rail... [Boyle\'s] best work since Drop City ... With his usual irony, pity, and a sense of humor that ranges from slapstick to sardonic, Boyle portrays a time when the American beatnik age is withering and about to be replaced by the emerging-hippie culture, and jazz is giving way to rock ’n’ roll ... As you might imagine, Boyle’s story is a page-turner. It would take an absolute hack to write a dull a novel about sex and drugs. That’s not to slight Boyle who captures the period perfectly. He’s done his research on drug research, and he doesn’t fill his characters mouths with a lot of the slang of the day ... fraught with innate irony and humor.
RaveSt. Louis Post-Dispatch\"... Ridker writes with such good humor and graceful irony that he manages to portray Arthur and his kids as people you want to care about, even if you wouldn’t invite them to your house to borrow money ... You might want to wring Arthur’s neck sometimes — lots of times — but Ridker does that for you as he puts Arthur through all sorts of setbacks, followed by comic epiphanies, and regressions. Ridker’s genius is making a generally unlikable character fun to read and gossip about. Quite an accomplishment in a first novel.\
MixedThe Brooklyn Rail\"It’s a harrowing, humorous, and sometimes confusing satire, set mostly in New York City, that blends detective story and science-fiction, but marred by first-novel missteps ... Ultimately, Demolition Night is a quirky, titillating satire that lambastes American corporatism, sex, and politics; and New York City readers will probably enjoy Barkan’s literal pot-shots at local politicians.\
William H. Gass
RaveSt. Louis Post-Dispatch\"As writer-philosopher, Gass writes criticism that is sometimes fanciful and avant-garde. Here are essays about the writer as artist — poets Paul Valéry, Ezra Pound, William Butler Yeats, and about Rilke’s take on Rodin. Gass writes about literary theory, and, of course philosophy, but also theme and character in fiction ... His heavier stuff is offset by lighthearted essays ... It’s easy to suggest what other work might have been included in this collection, but its bulk and variety is enough to nudge the reader to read his novels and collections in their entirety. The Reader is a monument to Gass’ brilliance as a postmodern fictioneer and a peerless genius of a critic.\
PositivePortland Press Herald\"Like any good detective story, there’s plenty of adventure, violence, some sex, and there’s [an] opossum, too ... It’s an interesting story with lots of the usual Lethem touches, but it offers no easy or certain resolution to the dissension in the country. Still, to paraphrase Phoebe, this story trumps anything I possibly could say in a review.\
Carlos Rovelli, Trans. by Erica Segre and Simon Carnell
RaveThe Washington PostNo one writes about the cosmos like theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli. He may not be as well known in the United States as the late Stephen Hawking, Neil deGrasse Tyson or Alan Lightman...but in The Order of Time, he shares his enthusiasm as he discusses scientifically and philosophically the \'greatest remaining mystery\': the nature of time ... Some of Rovelli’s critics, like physicist Lisa Randall, who also quotes Rilke, have accused Rovelli of romanticism, but I find an elegant grandeur in how he relates the worlds of science, philosophy and art. ... Who can resist reading a physicist who writes, \'We can go back to serenely immersing ourselves in time — in our finite time — to savoring the clear intensity of every fleeting and cherished moment of the brief circle of our existence\'?
RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksMost of the 11 stories in Florida, Lauren Groff’s new collection, are as fine and beautifully crafted as any fiction she has written ... Despite their realism, these stories often read like tales and modern myths buttressed by biblical allusions and imagery of snakes and other monsters ... Groff’s stories are exciting, her language rich and evocative ... She is one of the best writers in the United States, and her prize-winning stories reverberate long after they are read.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksFagone portrays Friedman as a premier American codebreaker, on a par with her husband, the better known (at least in the world of secret messages) William Friedman ...depicts her not only as a cryptological genius but also as a loving wife, the intellectual equal of William, but emotionally sturdier ... Fagone includes samples of such encrypted messages and explains basic methods for 'breaking' or 'cracking' them ... Fagone notes that William was paid as a signal corps lieutenant and Elizebeth as a civilian, but he doesn’t remark much on the gender disparity, a topic Mundy treats in great detail ...brings a tone of romantic espionage to his coverage of Elizebeth’s life and career.
RaveThe Boston GlobeIn his debut novel, Open City, Teju Cole, who was raised in Nigeria and came to the United States in 1992, tells the story of a young, immigrant medical student in New York City ... Not only is the main character stoic, but Cole imbues the novel with the existential feel of Sartre’s Nausea and the absurdism of Camus’s The Stranger ...his stoicism concerns the terrible history he recounts and the modern atrocities he witnesses. The reader will wonder near the novel’s end whether Julius himself might benefit from becoming the subject of his professional practice ... Open City is a quiet novel that somehow manages to scream. Despite all of his ruminating, Julius seems, like the world around him, to be in a state of psychological paralysis, unaffected by historical and contemporary atrocities.
RaveThe Houston ChronicleIn researching this extraordinary book, Mundy perused declassified Army, Navy and NSA archives. And she managed to get some, but not all, material declassified. She also examined private collections ad oral histories, and conducted interviews with some of the code girls and their relatives. Mundy's book is expansive and precise. It's anecdotal enough to make it an entertaining read for the layperson, and there's plenty of technical detail to interest the crypto-nerd.
PositiveThe Philadelphia InquirerViolence and gore abound; men and animals are shot and burned. The bond between the boy and the man strengthens near the story's end. But it isn't until near the end, despite some previous hints, that Carrasco reveals why the boy has run away and why the bailiff and his deputies pursue him. It is apparent, though, that hell will soon be opening its doors to the bailiff and his cohorts.
PositiveThe Houston ChronicleDawkins' stories may well be therapy, but they are more than just the scribbling of a guy who's trying to acclimate his psyche and his physical self to a lifetime of incarceration. His prison stories are insightful and well written, and they ring true. Dawkins possesses the acquired wisdom of a man who's been there, done that and, unfortunately, is staying there.
PositiveThe Houston ChronicleThe narrative problem Canty faces is this: His characters - with a couple of exceptions, including David and Lyle - are not likable. But Canty makes it clear that the mine owners are more detestable ... Likable or not, the lives of these desperate folk are interesting and realistic in raw sort of way, and the tragedy they are forced to face makes them worthy of sympathy and respect.
RaveThe Houston ChronicleResonant and entertaining ... Bausch's stories portray marriage, love and infidelity with the same insight, empathy and wit that he has for the lives of servicemen ... Bausch deftly imbues his characters with enough depth to make a commonplace story something unique and emotionally thrilling ... His writing is uncluttered, and every word feels perfect. The stories here aren't just entertaining; they demonstrate just how exciting and resonant realistic short fiction can be.
PositiveThe Houston ChronicleTom's physicist father complains that most time-travel stories get it wrong. I wonder: What might Stephen Hawking think of Mastai's time-travel science? What would Vonnegut think? Ah, but there are plenty of nuances that distinguish Mastai's story from various time-travel clichés. And this novel, for which Mastai's publisher Dutton reportedly paid $1.25 million, is witty, thoughtful and entertaining. It ought to sell well.
Samanta Schweblin, Trans. by Megan McDowell
RaveThe Houston Chronicle\"...at fewer than 30,000 words, this psychological thriller and subtly clever allegory is more of a novella that reads like a feverish dream. But it\'s no ordinary thriller, and Schweblin is no ordinary writer ... An absorbing and inventive tale ... Schweblin is a fine mythmaker, singular in her own fantastical artistry.\
PanThe Philadelphia InquirerProse tosses in some slapstick and a few funny, though predictable, comic scenes - but some of the alleged humor is questionable. You must be deep into schadenfreude to enjoy much of it ... Some readers won't mind the alleged humor. Some will enjoy it. Others will struggle through this book ... I lost interest in this book.
PositiveThe Houston ChronicleSome critics call Lethem a genre-bending literary genius. Maybe he is. He loads his dice with enough social and literary references, enough metaphors and similes to keep lit students busy writing papers about A Gambler's Anatomy for years. But unless there's a blot blocking my mind's eye, I find mostly entertainment and some clever literary tickling.
PositiveThe Boston Globe[T]here’s plenty of fighting and fakery, deceit and rationalization, to go around. The political posturing, religious hypocrisy, and some of that old-time self-satirizing humor should entertain everyone.
PositiveSt. Louis Post-DispatchCunningham, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his Virginia Woolf-inspired novel The Hours, brings a sophistication, sensibility and modern macabre humor to these timeless stories that recalls the original untainted tales of our European ancestors.