RaveChicago Review of BooksIf you’re an American, The Spymasters is required reading ... The picture crafted is hardly one of a deep state, which is a narrative peddled by the forty-fifth president. What the reader comes away with is a clear understanding of how the agency works and the important role that the CIA director (DCIA, formerly DCI) and the president have in utilizing its functions. In its simplest end, Whipple’s book is a lesson in understanding an arm of the U.S. government, providing an additional lens for the electorate to be informed ... Whipple uses unprecedented primary sources...to patch together a narrative that is both colorful and comprehensive ... The reader of this book grasps how much power and responsibility the CIA directors have.
PositiveChicago Review of BooksIn many ways it is one of the most traditional classifications of comedy––it has its roots in Greek New Comedy, centering on a romantic plot with familial affairs, stock characters, and a generally happy ending. As a result, the outline of the book closely follows the type of comedies we have come to recognize from television and film ... With the very white, upper-middle class upbringings and high-mindedness of the two Scrabble buffs creating a comparable effect to the stock comedy character pedants, Frasier and Niles Crane, various laughter inducing scenarios arise from their social blunders and erroneous assumptions as they advance from refuge ... It lands somewhere between endearing and frustrating, and buttresses one of the book’s themes about learning to find a balance across knowledge and experience– both being just as important in an education ... Hession’s narrative is cheerful and funny. But it is also a meditation on loneliness, fear, and what we fill our lives up with to compensate for them.
Joyce Carol Oates
RaveChicago Review of BooksThe book is a fictional addition to Oates’s A Widow’s Story: A Memoir. It is a book that is politically engaged ... Oates’s novel is about life in white America at the end of 2010, and it’s so extensive that a graduate-level English literature seminar would fail to discuss all of its machinations ... Oates’s writing is nearly flawless. Her pen is so brilliant that any reader may believe that they actually know what it is like to be in a coma. Not only does every metaphor hit, but she has perfected her stream of consciousness technique ... Oates makes such an interrogation of vanity that has not been done since William Makepeace Thackeray’s Vanity Fair.
RaveThe Chicago Review of BooksLynch takes a panga boat lost at sea and fashions it into a story that seems to inhale and exhale with the very days and nights experienced on Earth ... From the onset, Lynch’s work seems reminiscent of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. Of course, a similar setting is produced in Beyond The Sea, but Lynch’s form is also evocative of Hemingway’s style—both writers use short, deliberate sentences and ditch commas in spots where a conjunction might be present, and, as a result, relay a more natural and flowing narrative effect. Lynch’s writing, though, is more steeped in modernism as he does not include quotation marks in his dialogue, relying on periods even if a sentence is not grammatically complete ... Lynch writes with such precision of language and attention to exactness that finding the truest words appears to be something else that he has in common with Hemingway ... the best type of reading experience—one where nearly everything propels thinking. It grips the reader with large and unanswerable questions: What is true? What is knowing? What is meaning? Yet, somehow, Lynch provides exactly what seems to be impossible—answers.
Tola Rotimi Abraham
RaveThe Chicago Review of Books... a story of tragedy. It is not supposed to be hopeful. But there is hope in the telling ... Their stories are so blunt and intimate that the pain and confusion that inhabit the siblings’ experiences are never really absent, even before they are abandoned by their mother and father ... Abraham’s gift as a writer is her ability to simultaneously see peoples’ lives as both stories and as something more than narrative ... Her awareness of how difficult it is to separate from self allows her to better attempt to connect the reader to a critique of materiality, to a reminder that masculinity needs redeeming, to the knowledge that young boys are also victims in a patriarchy, and to the idea that toxic manhood is sublimated through institutions like marriage, church, and school. Overall, the work is committed to making stories personal, and paradoxically, the tales within her novel provide the reader with something that seems like more than merely a story ... Each chapter in the work is its own little black Sunday. But, although Abraham’s novel can be described as an exercise in confronting pain, her narrative is also an exercise in emboldening the \'female spirit.\'
RaveChicago Review of BooksSayles’s scrawl achieves a sensational pace. It is the impressive result of a comprehensive portrayal...and an incredible amount of layering, symbolism, and ideology. There is an urgency to Yellow Earth, and Sayles wastes no words. In many ways, Yellow Earth reads like a Victorian novel. Themes of industrialization, utilitarianism, and the struggles of the working people make appearances in their twenty-first century forms. There is an interminable band of characters ... The result is a deep and tremendous account of rural America. Sayles is brilliant, illustrating the psyche of truckers, farmers, and ranchers with a precision that makes the book suitable for use in history and American studies ... Sayles is able to include a startling display of toxic masculinity, which becomes one of the story’s larger themes. The magic of Yellow Earth is that it doesn’t feel didactic or like an overdone parable. Rather, Sayles fills his work with contradictions. The competing perspectives and ideologies manifest through the characters’ colloquial conversations, inner dialogue, and motivations.
Sok Fong Ho, Trans. by Natascha Bruce
PositiveThe Chicago Review of BooksWhat’s fascinating about the stories inside Ho Sok Fong’s latest short story collection is that they hit the reader hard, and at the same time they frustrate the ability of the reader to parse her scenes. With all of the ambiguity and occult that punctuate her stories, there seems to be something special in Ho’s writing that evokes such forceful emotion ... The reader, then, is meant to have their own interpretation of her stories, and her odd juxtapositions and seemingly contradictory tellings are vehicles for those individual elucidations ... Another of Bruce’s challenges was navigating the cultural differences and similarities between the many Asian identities that appear in Ho’s stories. Bruce tried to capture the hybridity of the Malyasian-English that is widely spoken within the region by planting some Malay terms. Of course, intersections of culture are also difficult moments for the reader. Ho seems to intentionally denote her characters with national identities—Malay, Chinese, Japanese, Indian. For those who are not familiar with the resulting social and political implications, it can be hard to guess what the particular tensions are between characters. However, she does provide some context, referencing historical figures or movements ... These paradoxes, simultaneously being but not being, seeing but not seeing, feeling but not feeling, charge through Lake Like A Mirror. Ho’s stories force the reader to cogitate uncertainty—that is the punch that Ho packs.