RaveThe Guardian (UK)The publication of Reward System by Cambridge-born Jem Calder provides further evidence that the medium is attracting some of the most talented young writers of fiction at work today, on both sides of the Irish sea ... as up-to-date as these stories feel, Reward System belongs firmly in the tradition of fictional miniaturism: Calder’s stories are all granular portraits of micro-interactions between people in ostensibly mundane settings, tapped out on six inches of LCD glass ... Calder’s view of contemporary reality feels several notches darker and more jaded than, say, Flattery’s or Sally Rooney’s. So why doesn’t a single page here feel dour or depressing to read? Quite simply because Calder is a superb writer, by turns funny, graceful, acidly cynical, lyrical – and always verbally dexterous and inventive. He can make the boredom of office life fascinating, as in Search Engine Optimisation; he can make a desolate house party enlivening, as in Better Off Alone; and his descriptions of loneliness and dissatisfaction, as in virtually all these stories, leave the reader feeling understood – or, as his characters would say, seen...But he can also write simply and beautifully, with a keen eye for the natural world and human behaviour.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)Funny, stylish and accomplished, it is a satirical caper about the tangled roots of creative inspiration and the indignities of authorial ambition. There is a time-honoured – some would say moth-eaten – tradition of novelists writing novels about novelists, from Roth and Updike to Rooney, Ferrante and Jean Hanff Korelitz. Are such books interrogations of the moral and material conditions of authorship, or exercises in literary navel gazing? And who on earth wants to read another one? For much of this novel, I was surprised to find myself thinking: I do ... Lipstein sets up this dilemma, and traces the fallout from it, with a formal and stylistic swagger that more experienced novelists might envy. But at a certain point the question I found myself confronting was: who cares? Both money and acclaim undoubtedly have their upsides, but in themselves neither can give life or a novel meaning. Lipstein knows this: Last Resort is an unsparing satire of a generation of millennials who fear that their lives lack gravitas and emotional depth. Every gesture is inflected with painful self-awareness, a first approximation of feeling ... stakes everything on the hope that being knowing enough about knowingness, and ironic enough about irony, can help a novel transcend its own self-consciousness and point to something more profound. You won’t read a more brilliantly executed literary romp this year. But at a certain point you may find yourself longing for something a bit more … well, you know, whatever the opposite of empty is.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)... the narrative truly comes alive when [Schulz] contemplates her father’s story ... The book’s second section describes Schulz’s surprise at finding a life partner after years of cherishing a bookish kind of solitude. Here, her tendency to digress might be seen as a defence against cloying sentimentality. If so, she needn’t have worried ... But Schulz’s unusual method – part‑essay, part-memoir – comes into its own in the book’s final third ... In these passages, Schulz’s prose almost rises to the level of Nietzsche at his most wise and humane, or William James.
MixedThe Guardian (UK)By engaging in an \'activism of the word\', this erudite, original and ultimately unsatisfying book intends to pit the \'radical surprise of real life\' against the \'lies of the rulers\' ... We can be sure what this novel is trying to do, because it keeps telling us ... Satya/Kumar serves up a torrent of namechecks and information. A future reader would find in this book a kind of time capsule of the Trump years...everything is related in the bloodless prose of a Washington Post editorial ... \'Any good novel,\' Satya reminds us, quoting the historian Timothy Snyder, \'enlivens our ability to think about ambiguous situations and judge the intentions of others.\' But sincerely intending to dramatise ambiguous situations and the intention of others is not the same thing as doing it. In fiction, all the information in the world – whether true or false – is no substitute for the enlivening portrayal of character, relationship, interiority, et cetera.
PositiveThe Guardian (UK)The Rapture is perceptive about the ways in which earthly longing can be refracted into religious excitement, as a magnifying glass focuses sunlight. The Society helps channel and tame its members’ sexual passion, their grief over husbands and brothers lost in the war, and their unarticulated political frustration (first-wave feminism has barely made a splash in their lives). McGlasson weaves these threads together skilfully, creating a wise and entertaining novel about the way we break open the boxes sealed inside ourselves.
RaveThe Guardian (UK)Clive James has called [Keret] \'one of the most important writers alive”\'– and these 22 tales showcase why. In Keret’s world, whimsy often conceals gut-wrenching wisdom, and heartache usually comes laced with hilarity. If Kafka were reincarnated as a comedy writer in Tel Aviv, his work might look something like this ... The invention in these stories is dazzling: time and again, Keret hits on an idea so good that another writer would turn it into a novel ... Where older Israeli writers such as Amos Oz and David Grossman have railed like prophets against their nation’s sins, Keret mounts his protest in the form of pitch-black satire ... Although the tales are divided between five translators, each captures Keret’s dry, almost clinical style superbly. The book shows a master of the short story pushing against the limits of what the form can achieve ... There’s only one thing Keret is incapable of doing with a story: writing one that’s boring.