PanNew York[A]nyone looking for a systematic (or deep or original or coherent) discussion...anyone looking even for the manifesto promised in the book’s subtitle—will be disappointed by the reality of Reality Hunger. It’s hard to figure out exactly what the book is trying to say ... Shields repeats things so often, and so smugly, that you want to reach across the art-reality threshold and slap him ... The book’s supposed profundities...are, to anyone who’s ever thought seriously about any of these issues, a bunch of remedial Grade-A head-slappers. And yet Shields intones them with the air of a holy man whispering the final secret of the universe from his mountaintop. Meanwhile, he says nothing about what he means by \'reality\'—what it is, where its boundaries lie ... what Reality Hunger actually does is remind us how boring and frustrating this kind of [genre-bending] art can be.
RaveNew York MagazineNox is a brilliantly curated heap of scraps. It’s both an elegy and a meta-elegy, a touching portrait of a dead brother and a declaration of the impossibility of creating portraits of dead brothers ... In Nox, she treats her brother like a figure from antiquity who just happens to have grown up in the same houses she did and to have died 1,500-odd years after the fall of Rome ... Michael is both extremely specific and a kind of Everybrother ... As the accordion of Nox unfolds, its material begins to resonate across many levels. It is an elegy stuffed with elegies ... This strikes me as the secret ambition of Nox, to produce a worthy translation of Catullus 101—not merely on a line-by-line level...but in a deeper sense. Carson wants to reproduce, over the space of an entire book, the untranslatable qualities she most admires in Catullus: the passionate, slow surface; the deep festivity buried in the sorrow. She wants to reanimate dead things spoken in a dead language. \'A brother never ends,\' she writes. \'I prowl him. He does not end.\'
RaveNew York Magazine...an excellent, hyperliterate, genre-pantsing detective novel that deserves every inch of its impending blockbuster superfame ... Chabon sculpts this alternate history down to a miraculous degree of detail—pious Jewish gangsters, abandoned strip malls with touchingly defunct Yiddish signage—so it feels natural and immersive and (despite being so clearly a gimmick) never gimmicky ... habon seems more interested in his alternate world as a novelistic challenge—how to bring something so outlandish to life?—than as some kind of subtly coded analysis of contemporary Middle Eastern politics ... His sentences are clean and cocky and loaded and at least as entertaining as the mystery itself. He lavishes incredible, almost impractical care on each little unit of description—characters who are barely even characters get identifying characteristics.
PositiveNew YorkZamperini’s story seems designed to wrench from self-respecting critics all the blurby adjectives we normally try to avoid: It is amazing, unforgettable, gripping, harrowing, chilling, and inspiring. It sucked me in and swept me away. It kept me reading late into the night. I could not … (it really hurts me to type this) … put it … (must find the strength to resist) … down ... Hillenbrand ... builds her portrait, with loving patience, out of the tiniest details ... Hillenbrand has come to revere his courage and intelligence—and rightly so. Still, I found myself wondering, occasionally, if that devotion was an obstacle, if it led Hillenbrand to accept a version of Zamperini’s life that is slightly less complex than his actual life might have been.
PositiveThe New York Times MagazineSentence structures are not simply sentence structures, of course—they are miniature philosophies ... Likewise, Keith Gessen’s signature sentence structure—\'not X, but also not not X\'—suggests an entire worldview. It is a universe of in-betweenness, in which the most basic facts of life, the things we absolutely expect to understand, spill and scatter like toast crumbs into the gaps between the floorboards ... Gessen’s new novel, A Terrible Country, [is] the story of a 30-something American man who goes to Russia to care for his elderly grandmother. He falls into the gaps between huge concepts: youth and age, purpose and purposelessness, progress and stasis. He is not Russian but also not not Russian, not smart but also not not smart, not heroic but also not not heroic. Such is the way of the world.
PanNew York...a manically incoherent pseudo-noir hippie-mystery that should fit in nicely with the author’s recent series of quirky late-career non-masterpieces … Pynchon is clearly having a postmodern blast warping the building blocks of detective fiction—causation, probability, significance, suspense. But it’s not quite so much fun for the reader. It’s hard to stay invested in a plot in which everything is so casually interconnected. When things finally resolve into one big classic Pynchon parable of conspiratorial corporate greed, the solution seems preordained and therefore totally harmless. It feels like the net of genre constraints has been torn down, which drains the game of most of its meaning. With no suspense and nothing at stake, Pynchon’s manic energy just feels like aimless invention.
Roberto Bolaño, Trans. by Natasha Wimmer
RaveNew York MagazineReading 2666 demands a degree of sustained artistic communion that strikes me as deeply old-fashioned, practically Victorian ...a novel built out of five linked novellas, each of which is itself a collage of endless stand-alone parts: riffs, nightmares, set pieces, monologues, dead ends, stories within stories, descriptive flourishes ... Bolaño takes the crimes on directly, one by one, compiling a brutal, almost journalistic catalogue of the murdered women...clearly outraged by the culture of misogyny, exploitation, and indifference that enables the killing, he refuses to load the fictional dice...the final indeterminate Bolañesco touch: mystery, openness, imperfection—a simultaneous promise of everything and of nothing.
PositiveNew YorkThe book would probably be insufferably dull if it weren’t for the fact that it also happens to be a work of total genius … Few modern novelists rival Franzen in that primal skill of creating life, of tricking us into believing that a text-generated set of neural patterns, a purely abstract mind-event, is in fact a tangible human being that we can love, pity, hate, admire, and possibly even run into someday at the grocery store … The difference between reading Franzen firsthand and thinking about him from a distance is the difference between having a dream and trying to tell someone about it three years later.