MixedHarpersAshamed by all this fretting, I tried to remind myself that these were different circumstances: that if this book were bad, if this book were a failure, it would have nothing to do with me. The sins of the biographer aren’t borne by the subject, but the other way around. After all, most people read biographies for the subject, not the author. And most sane, rational people would never read a biography of a novelist they hated but would read even a lackluster biography of a novelist they loved. At worst, I told myself, a lackluster biography would be a wasted opportunity and my true fans would come away from it clamoring for another, and another, and another, each one further impressing on them the sense that the only writer who could ever hope to encompass my person in prose was me, myself. I’ve always tried to maintain this distinction between my person and my prose. As a student of Céline and Orwell and the better anti-Semites—and as a writer given to experimentation with alter egos, not to mention with fornication—I’ve long insisted that Life and Work, if they can’t be separated, must at least be separately respected ... On the whole, Bailey’s neat arrangement of Roth’s obviously messy existence is appropriately novelistic—the brazen young man who lampoons his community winds up being cherished by his country as a classic—but this resolution of Roth into beloved canonicity comes prepackaged with a twist, which is how that canonicity is undermined—how it’s been undermined in advance—by Roth’s choice to grant access to a biographer ...The biography is published and the writer’s legacy crumbles. Call it a Reverse Kafka, or a Backwards Brod: by complying with my last wishes, Bailey threatens to ruin my reputation ... In a way, Bailey’s fastidious, scene-by-scene accounting of the biography’s changing authorship is characteristic of his method: he took from my novels the metafictional, or, I guess, now meta-non-fictional, technique of making himself a character in his own book and then leveraged that presence to pick at my flaws. And I’m telling you, it hurts. It wounds my professional pride ... In Bailey’s telling, or non-telling, it’s as if I rarely wrote, and never rewrote, and the lacuna is so conspicuous that I can only conclude that my writing doesn’t interest him at all.
RaveThe Paris ReviewThree is the second of the four brilliant and enigma-ridden novels that Ann Quin published before drowning off the coast of Brighton in 1973 at the age of thirty-seven ... Quin’s \'reproduction\' of her characters’ artifacts represents perhaps her most daring attempt to break out of the straitening of both monogamy and realism. While the journal entries are presented in a fairly traditional manner—even poignantly traditional, with dates at top and discussions of weather—the nonwritten recordings, and the audio recordings in particular, are presented in a format that’s more poetry than prose, with the white space on the page made to represent silence or the hum of a tape reeling blank between utterances.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewA.D., for me, has come to mean not anno Domini but anno DeLillo, an unaccountable time after the annulment of time — after the fall seasons and spring seasons, after the sweeps-weeks and opening weekends, after the early and late editions, after the updates at 6 and at 10 ... Now — if we can agree to pretend that we know what \'now\' is — the master has brought us The Silence: the latest installment in his chronicle of our unrelenting present ... There is something quixotic about what DeLillo has done: writing about contemporary culture even as it collapses into subcultures, and even as the democratic dream of a collective center is derided as suspicious in identitarian terms ... The Silence is even more bone-hard and skeletally spare than its predecessor, though its subject is considerably broader. In it, humans deprived of technology resign themselves to death, and not just to individual death but to cultural death, the end of the world, the end of time.
RaveThe New York Times Sunday Book Review[A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing] forgoes quotation marks and elides verbiage for sense, sound and sheer appearance on the page. For emphasis it occasionally wreaks havoc on capItalS and reverses letter order. It is, in all respects, a heresy — which is to say, Lord above, it’s a future classic … McBride opts for a first-person heroine-narrator who drinks, takes drugs and enjoys — but is traumatized by — sex. She’s a lapsed Catholic, and always a cowed but dutiful daughter … A Girl subjects the outer language the world expects of us to the inner syntaxes that are natural to our minds, and in doing so refuses to equate universal experience with universal expression.
Mathias Enard, Trans. by Charlotte Mandell
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"...[a] masterly new novel that attempts to redeem the specter of the Orient ... All of his books share the hope of transposing prose into the empyrean of pure sound, where words can never correspond to stable meanings, but can merely indicate the energies underlying an attempt at stabilizing meanings, and the bitterness that ensues when those attempts inevitably fail (even in Charlotte Mandell’s resoundingly successful translation). Ritter’s record of this pursuit is the record of his pursuit of love — but of a distant love, a doomed love — a love that won’t be returned; not by Sarah, not by the \'foreign\' cultures he dwells among, and, most grievously, not by music itself.\
Peter Handke, Trans. by Krishna Winston
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review...might be the most important novel of Handke’s career ... The more the European press assailed and censured Handke, the more defiant he became, as if in a perverse attempt to remind Austria and a reunified Germany of the type of radical, independent, infuriating writer they had once relied upon to de-Nazify their culture and re-establish civic life. In The Moravian Night, Handke simultaneously escalates and surrenders that campaign ... The 'former writer' finds the Balkans that emerges from the fogs, toward the conclusion of The Moravian Night, unrecognizable: a fractious patchwork of new alphabets and towers, repopulated by strangers equipped with smartphones, whose 'comportment clashed with his conception, or his will? his ideal? his idea? — his sense of a narrative based on all he had just witnessed.' Handke has written a poignant book almost despite himself, or to spite the day, out of the grim confusion of his ruins.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewSpiotta’s dramatization of the Meadow-Carrie dyad is masterly, with lines (in third-person authorial voiceover, and in first person in the voices of both Meadow and Carrie) that seem delivered — improvised — by women who’ve known each other and even the reader forever: deeply encoded, privately referential and pregnant with pander, indulgence and resentment...
Vladimir Sorokin, Trans. by Jamey Gambrell
PositiveHarper's...a crazed fantasia on Tolstoy’s tale, with all the moralizing ingeniously whited out.
Rafael Chirbes, Trans. by Margaret Jull Costa
RaveHarpersOn the Edge, Chirbes’s masterpiece, arrives as a message in a bottle among all the cans, rusting appliances, and tangled tackle. The fumes of the lagoon mix with the lingering sulfur of the Atocha railway-station bombing; the Spanish economy has all but collapsed. Who, or what, is to blame? Chirbes’s novel accuses everyone.