RaveThe New York Review of BooksHis latest novel, The Dream of My Return, presents in compact and indelible form his tricks, his daring, his disgust, his humor ... Moya is a bold and accomplished craftsman. The Dream of My Return is told in the first-person past tense. The vocabulary and phrasing fit Erasmo perfectly, just as the rambling, pages-long paragraphs accord with the obsessive sequences of self-questioning and out-of-control mental wandering he succumbs to in his reflections. Everything is clear ... The new novel is a character study of one of the demoralized and still half-obtuse victims of past turbulence. Erasmo is unusually screwed up. What animates him is a sourceless conviction that going home again will remake him.
RaveNew York Review of Books...a bildungsroman, very well put together, polished, dry but tender, ferociously observed ... certain qualities of Necessary Errors stand counter to fashions prevailing in successful contemporary literary fiction. Crain uses the semicolon. The tale-telling is unusually leisurely. The scenes and exchanges of dialogue can run long. Even though the quest for love and sex is at the heart of things, the recounting of physical incidents is decorous, even chaste. The story is nonviolent and antipicaresque ... There are no epiphanies, no life-altering changes of consciousness ... Necessary Errors works ... Plot seems a coarse term to apply to the sequence of events dramatized here ... Jacob’s group is fun to watch. Not for surprise or suspense or the reversals of fortune one associates with vigorous plotting. There’s none of that. But the particularities of the group are brilliantly caught ... This novel probes deeply in an unexpectedly playful manner into some fundamental matters: love, friendship, solidarity, vocation, the pursuit of truth. Crain writes with skill and grace, and with restraint ... We’re not through with narratives about the Getting of Wisdom, Americans Abroad, Coming of Age, Gay Coming of Age, New Lost Generations. Among such works, a new narrative will be measured against Caleb Crain’s fine book, which will endure as a powerful entry in the great fictional exploration of the meanings of liberation.
PositiveThe New York Review of BooksTree of Smoke is an ambitious, long, dense, daunting novel sited at the heart of a great American evil, the Vietnam War. It’s unusual—a gripping yet essentially plotless novel consisting of intercut segments of the lives of people caught up in the war … The stories of these people, the principals, as well as those of many of the subordinate characters, are told in free indirect voice—we have internal points of view provided across a population of players almost Tolstoyan in its sweep … Tree of Smoke is a study in collateral damage to the Americans who perpetrated the war. Primarily and in the foreground, at least, it is the damage to Americans on which Johnson is focusing in this book. These characters suffer ultimate penalties for their sins. They go mad, they end up dead, lost, alone—the gamut of terrible ends. Among the Americans, the war saves nobody and dooms many.
RaveThe New York Review of BooksCole’s essays are brilliantly written—sharp, intelligent—and yield a pleasurable sweetness. His prose, in its variations, is impeccably where he wants it to be. His erudition is put to work humbly. But in encountering these essays, perhaps the most important quality to grasp is Cole’s deep sense of the seriousness of life, which is sustained in different registers throughout. Rotating through his compositions, and sometimes shouldering aside their announced subjects, is an array of thematic problems routinely confounding to the educated secular leftcentric urban readerships of today … I am sentimental about Teju Cole and think of him as an emissary for our best selves. He is sampling himself for our benefit, hoping for enlightenment, and seeking to provide pleasure to us through his art. May his realm expand.