MixedThe Minneapolis Star Tribune... unusual ... The book purports to be an account of [a] feud, in which Mohnhaupt claims to trace a microcosm of the Cold War itself...But the book Mohnhaupt actually wrote is even stranger, and wider ranging, than he apparently intended. He does describe the lives and work of those two feuding zookeepers — Heinz-Georg Klös in the West, Heinrich Dathe in the East — but he also describes the lives and work of many, many other, more minor characters. Often, as with Gerd Morgen’s moosecapades, the result is delicious, but the book also begins to feel diffuse. It can’t quite contain everything ... Mohnhaupt spends considerable time on not entirely consequential details, like where each young animal keeper acquired his university degrees, while skimping on larger ethical questions ... it would have been nice to see Mohnhaupt engage with the ethics of animal trapping, trading and zookeeping in general ... His book is a crucial account of the way that human institutions — political, cultural, educational — are bound up with each other, but his unwillingness to acknowledge the cruelty and ugliness these institutions conceal is a regrettable flaw. Still, the liveliness of his storytelling and the wonderful eccentricity of his subject matter make this book well worth a read.
Fleur Jaeggy Trans. by Tim Parks
PositiveOn The SeawallHow to describe Fleur Jaeggy? She defies categorization, expectation. Her prose style is unlike anyone’s; so is her subject matter and the structure of her strange stories. Her sentences have a blunt, stunted quality, like stone gargoyles perched above an ancient city, blank-eyed, squat and grey, bits of their noses and ears chipped off ... The best description of Jaeggy’s prose that I’ve encountered comes, surprisingly, from the jacket copy for I Am the Brother of XX, which applauds Jaeggy’s \'champagne gothic worlds.\' Yes: precisely ... In this book, characters glom on to each other like leeches, sticky and wet ... In Sweet Days of Discipline, violence is not embodied; it is sublimated, and made eerier for it.
Donatella Di Pietrantonio, Trans. by Ann Goldstein
RaveThe Star TribuneIt is an achingly beautiful book, and an utterly devastating one ... Di Pietrantonio writes with deceptive simplicity. Every scene—every detail—is as meticulously rendered as a grain of sand. There is no sentimentality here, no excess at all, but delicacy of feeling, and depth ... But for all its anguish, the novel is never despairing or bleak. The characters are so precisely drawn, they seem to actually breathe. There is humor here, and sympathy to go around. Now, especially, we would do well to consider the plight of children who are roughly separated from the lives they have known.
RaveThe Star Tribune\"Belle Boggs is a witty, incisive writer, and The Gulf, her first novel, deftly satirizes everything from for-profit schools to the MFA industrial complex, American liberals and conservatives, and the hypocrisies of both sides ... These are fully realized characters, each with their own weaknesses and worries ... Scores of recent books, of every genre, have attempted to bridge the looming gulf in American culture and politics. It’s to Boggs’ credit that she doesn’t ... For all the satire, Boggs’ novel is also deeply felt, and moving. Perhaps its greatest strength is Boggs’ delicate, hard-won sympathy for her characters, and the sympathy they develop for one another.\