MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewIntriguing ... The story has all the makings of a real-life thriller. But soon Hodes encounters a narrative problem: She remembers very little about those days ... What gives her book its propulsive force: her effort not only to piece together the details of the hijacking and its aftermath, but to make sense of the omissions in her own memory ... Hodes examines the episode with a historian’s meticulousness and a reporter’s zeal ... Capturing no sense of imminent danger, and no genuine recollection of emotion, Hodes’s story remains at a frustrating remove. While reading it, I felt at times as though I was viewing the hijacking through the thick pane of an airplane cabin window. With too many unknowns, Hodes tends to rely on the unsatisfying vagueness of rhetorical questions ... ome of the most compelling scenes in the book have nothing to do with the hijacking, but rather deal with the author’s family and unconventional upbringing.
Agur Schiff, trans. Jessica Cohen
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewWeighty issues are everywhere in this novel: the legacy of slavery, labor migration, class, race and privilege. They often come up, though, in crude dialogue, implausible scenes or in rhetorical questions that take on the veneer of moral argument without the contorted novelistic work of making them come alive through believable characters ... Representing a transgressive personal politics in fiction is worthy — vital, even — so long as it serves a human truth ... Yet Schiff the novelist seems more interested in shocking, not elucidating, in appearing contrarian rather than truthful. That’s a shame, because his novel is daring in both scope and imagination.
Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz, tr. Philip Boehm
RaveThe New York Review of Books... stunning ... There is no artifice to the writing ... The novel is remarkable precisely because of the immediacy of its plot—its sense of being written in a continuous present. Boschwitz, who was twenty-three when he finished it, was able to capture what happens when a regime turns on its own citizens and treats them as pariahs, with savage force and daily degradations dressed up in legalese. He had an ear for dialogue and a penchant for the absurd ... Boschwitz’s novel pulsates with such fine, understated descriptions ... One comes away marveling not only at Boschwitz’s craftsmanship but at what can only be called his human spirit: a sense of emotional restraint and the eerie foresight it took to produce this kind of work ... The Passenger exposes the posturing of bystanders who claimed not to have known what the Nazis were doing. Here, at least, we have one example of someone who did know ... The Passenger resembles a message in a bottle: cautionary, despairing, a literary warning ... Certain passages seem specifically designed to chill a present-day reader ... What other brave, urgent works likewise fell into obscurity because of the war?
Ronit Matalon, Trans. by Jessica Cohen
PositiveThe New York Review of BooksAt 128 pages, And the Bride Closed the Door reads like a novella or a comedic set-piece, complete with brief asides that could pass for stage directions ... The language is straightforward, breezy, conversational. And Jessica Cohen’s translation makes it highly accessible, though something of Matalon’s poetic pacing in Hebrew—an almost forensic treatment of slang and phonetic class signifiers—is sadly lost in most of her translated work. But it is weightier than it seems ... Matalon leans a little too much into whimsy ... Confettied throughout the novel are Matalon’s well-chosen details ... And then there is Margie. A question mark. An absence. Because the title of the work revolves around a missing figure, and because the novel is constrained to a single location, unfolding in surrealist fashion, parallels to Beckett are unavoidable, as Margie serves as a kind of latter-day Godot—with an important distinction.
MixedThe New York Review of BooksWith Levy, you are never quite sure of your footing. But she is ... In The Man Who Saw Everything, reality \'slips\' quite literally. The oddities that accumulate in the novel’s first half gain clarity in the second ... The levity and mystery of the first half of the book give way to narrative-sapping backstory and wooden summaries ... information appears in clipped chapters, as if Levy is breathlessly trying to bring us up to speed. This results in mannered dialogue ... On the novel goes, between keenly observed scenes and more affected ones.
MixedThe New York Review of BooksThe elusiveness of Sally’s story makes it fertile ground for a novelist. T. Greenwood, in Rust & Stardust, has clearly done her research. She remains faithful to the details we know about Sally Horner and Frank La Salle, but it’s as though she is frightened to take liberties with them. What we get instead are sanitized characters ... The novel progresses...in clipped, fast-moving chapters and gravelly dialogue. It never comes alive. Lurking in the back of the reader’s mind is the question of ownership. Who controls Sally’s story? Is this a serious attempt to explore it from her point of view, or is the author merely exploiting her for a readymade and sordid plot?
MixedThe New York Review of BooksWeaving together chapters that juxtapose Sally’s experiences with Nabokov’s writing of his masterpiece, Weinman exposes his ambivalence about plumbing real-life stories for his novels and the extent to which he relied on, but largely obfuscated, such stories in the crafting of his fiction. The similarities that Weinman reveals between Sally Horner and Dolores Haze are striking ... Weinman manages to rise above mere conjecture and to show that Sally Horner was not as \'irrelevant\' to Lolita as Nabokov would have liked us to believe ... Unfortunately for Weinman, and for the reader, this outline of a life on the run doesn’t add up to very much. Sally’s portrait remains blurry. Almost nothing about her survived from this period ... Deciphering a life as unknowable as Sally’s is a tall order, even for a reporter steeped in true-crime history like Weinman ... Gaps in the story having to do with Sally’s thoughts throughout her captivity ... remain glaringly exposed ... We are presented...with a series of clichés ... Weinman makes the most of her findings. One can tell she is a crime writer from her alertness to unusual details ... we move away from the story of Sally Horner and toward the metaliterary concern animating her book. This is both to Weinman’s detriment and to her credit. While The Real Lolita is sure to disappoint true-crime enthusiasts, the result is something more tangled: an attempt to understand an elusive artist at work.
PositiveThe New York Review of BooksWhile much in her latest collection deals—as its title suggests—with real estate and the notion of ownership, it could just as easily have been titled Work. Mugs have jobs; Mooches don’t ... Some of the stories in Property may likewise be read as parables on the perils of greed or excess, or both ... In \'Paradise to Perdition,\' the protagonist, Barry Mendelssohn, has embezzled millions of dollars and travels to the most expensive resort he can find online—the ominously named Eternal Rest ... The moral is about as subtle as that of a Mother Goose tale ... Or consider the entertaining story \'Domestic Terrorism,\' about Harriet, the mother of a thirty-one-year-old community college dropout who refuses to move out of his parents’ home ... This is well-honed satire ... In \'Kilifi Creek\' ... [t]here is no sentimentality...no lesson to be gleaned. The Afterlife was never going to pan out, Shriver makes clear. The spiral was always pointing downward.
PositiveThe New York Review of BooksHow thrilling...to open Forest Dark, Krauss’s new novel, and find not only an insistence on its own formlessness but a general refusal to please … It is, at heart, a story about the present. Both Epstein and Nicole have to pick up the pieces of their broken marriages and figure out how to start over. They may be in Israel, but their journey of reinvention is a thoroughly American one … In Forest Dark she has written a book that is not lovely; it is original and, for the most part, strong. By shrugging off her previous shortcuts to authority, she has expanded her own, as an author.