PositivePopmattersThroughout the tale, the narrator engages in telepathic dialogue with his mother, filling her in and urging her to awaken ... Sartori is deft at avoiding the risk, posed by his unique authorial imagination, of running his narrative off the rails and into the realm of superficial silliness, or mere comic caper, by reigning in that imagination and grounding it in the network of very human relationships that he creates among his family of very quirky characters ... Sartori\'s BUG is a study in quirkiness, but it is founded upon a serious and complex substratum ... underneath all the entertaining commotion is an investigation into the relationship of words, signs, feelings, and thoughts ... Bug is a worthwhile adventure cast in the melded whimsy ands ubstance characteristic of Sartori\'s work.
Vigdis Hjorth, trans. by Charlotte Barslund
PositivePopMattersHjorth\'s novel, admirably translated by Charlotte Barslund so as to maintain the novel\'s Norwegian grounding, is a study in existential torpor that, happily, does not induce the same condition in the reader ... This is an engaging, well-honed novel although some of the stories-within-stories might better have been shortened and some of Ellinor\'s internal dialogue can feel somewhat, well, repetitive. Still, she provides a focal point for first-person ruminations about one\'s place in the world and how difficult it can be to engage fully with the people and tasks and decisions that impinge on us while we are here ... Hjorth even succeeds in making Ellinor\'s travails toward the culminating up-or-down vote on a Norwegian government directive engaging reading ... Hjorth\'s writing is both spare and, in an understated way, humorous, as Ellinor, an intensely self-reflective but oddly empty vessel, finds herself and loses herself – repeatedly -- as life unfolds amidst colleagues and friends and lovers, their families and their demands.
PositivePop MattersThe chapters of The Eighth Detective containing the conversations between Julia and her host are the most interesting, as this is where it dawns on Julia and the reader that there may indeed be another and quite different game afoot. The sense that something is amiss slowly becomes palpable ... This frame-tale is what makes the book engaging and interesting because the seven detective stories themselves, although set in a wide array of inventive settings and circumstances, feel lengthy and over-stuffed with characters, clues and alibis – possibly because Pavesi views his job as only to craft stories that embody the elementary mathematical rules ... It\'s an open question as to the value of worrying about how strictly to define a genre. Maybe we simply know it when we see it; maybe such pigeon-holing doesn\'t matter. Still, the value of The Eighth Detective is found in its inventive premise and the layered and meta-friendly structure within which Pavesi\'s protagonist posits the mathematical permutations of \'detective fiction\' ... Murder most factorial.
PositivePopMattersThis finely wrought novel of inexorable, spiraling decline is tinged with more than a wisp of hope that the same force that engenders such deterioration, as ineluctable as it is, can also generate at least one very good thing ... Everett is adept at the vivid portrayal of the deterioration his protagonist experiences by exposing the details of each rung down the ladder without ever stepping over the line into the mawkish, the melodramatic, or the overwrought ... Telephone provides a case study of a family dynamic shaken by illness, of the attendant grief and loss, and of the opportunity to generate goodness in the face of catastrophe even if there is no possible return to the status quo ante. A timely lesson.
Johannes Anyuru, Trans by. Saskia Vogel
PositivePop MattersAuthors who create confused characters often confuse readers. Anyuru, though, being an author in full control of a powerful talent, can put readers in a state of mind similar to that of his confused characters while offering an engaging challenge ... Although in the skilled hands of Anyuru readers can revel in being at-sea along with his confused characters, whose narratives are told by Anyuru in third person, a brief untangling of some major mileposts may be of help ... From the reader\'s point of view, it is at times unclear where the authorial assertion of a narrative puzzle-piece ends and a character\'s memory, perhaps faulty, begins; nor is it always clear where a character stands vis-à-vis the truth ... Apart from the reader\'s enjoyment of completing the plot puzzle, Anyuru\'s novel explores a vicious cycle critical to us all; a government, anticipating threats from members of a particular segment of the population who have done no wrong, over-reacts in a way that causes such threats to blossom into actual attacks ... This novel blends topical societal issues with a speculative literary trope made fresh by being viewed through a powerful psychological lens. Anyuru, a poet as well as playwright and novelist, provides an engaging literary experience, a Möbius strip-like ride-in-time couched in finely-polished language ... an excellent idiomatic translation.
PositiveThe Philadelphia InquirerThe Archive of Alternate Endings by Lindsey Drager epitomizes the so-called small press novel: It is wildly creative, challenging yet readable, and may not be pointed toward a broad mainstream audience. Many such novels run the risk of being overlooked — which, in this case, would be more than regrettable ... Drager is, of course, not the only author to engage in modern or post-modern contextualizing of folktales. But she has an original idea: that multiplicity is a sign not of fragmentation but rather of stories with alternative endings ... Although relatively slim, Drager’s novel is a vast and convoluted treasure trove. She does a fine job of illuminating the darker concepts and human relationships with her rich, confident, and sometimes startling writing.