RaveShelf AwarenessLaura van den Berg...leads her characters into bizarre and life-changing situations--all the more powerful for their underlying emotional resonance--in her thrilling and uncanny collection of stories ... The surreal permeates these stories in masterful fashion, as if each narrative, grounded in the real, slowly slips into the fantastical ... not only a testament to the power of the short story, but to how, cumulatively, a collection can sustain an entire ethos and atmosphere. Van den Berg is a maestro of the form, and these stories shouldn\'t be missed.
RaveShelf Awareness... profound, earthshaking ... Harvey has been compared by the Telegraph with Virginia Woolf. The comparison holds up. She is a writer of both sparkling effusions and dark, twisted inquiry. The Shapeless Unease defies linear genre and offers a varied look at the somber affliction of insomnia ... What\'s constant is the restless energy propelling the prose: fervent, searching, luminous at times ... The best part of The Shapeless Unease, though, is the author\'s exploration of writing ... This memoir churns deep in the soul. Here is a talented writer plumbing her personal experience as deeply as she can. The results are staggeringly beautiful. The Shapeless Unease belongs on the nightstand of every literary-minded insomniac.
RaveShelf Awareness...a rapturous cry for all their friends and lovers in the profoundly moving collection ... Smith writes with both power and precision, and their poetic forms are as diverse as their topics. Homie teems with stream-of-conscious prose poetry and in equal measure gleams with lapidary stanzas of more formalized verse ... Smith is also a master of shape poetry, pushing words around the page in ways that are novel yet somehow essential to the flow of language ... As much as the collection is grounded in love, there\'s a hard-won ferocity in belonging, even moments of violence ... The collection is filled with passion and humanity and demonstrates why Smith has been called one of the best poets of their generation.
RaveShelf Awareness... Iyer makes nihilist philosophy hip and fun in his highly entertaining tragicomedy ... Iyer writes in short, emphatic elliptical sentences, a little maddening in their repetition but effective in creating a mood of rebellious adolescence. The style works in portraying the young characters\' molten thoughts and emotions, as well as in satirizing the suburbs and school life ... As much fun as Iyer has in hilariously sending up tract houses and golf courses, he\'s at his satirical best describing the social stratification in the school ... There\'s something daring and poetic in the main characters\' resistance to suburban culture ... The characters don\'t just talk philosophy; they embody it in their decisions and actions. They test their surroundings with radical ideas. It\'s an exhilarating ride, evoking the grandiosity of youth and the dynamics of counterculture itself. Of course, there\'s a tragic arc to the story. Beneath every uproarious protest cry is something human and fallible, Iyer sharply reminds readers ... The brilliant, relentless drive of the narrative of Nietzsche and the Burbs demands a certain amount of stamina from readers. But the payoff is great. Perhaps not since Don DeLillo\'s White Noise has a novel so funnily and savagely lifted the veil on Western postmodern culture. What\'s underneath is hard to explain. Some may find darkness, others beauty.
J. Drew Lanham
RaveForeword ReviewsA deep and abiding connection to the pastures and forests of South Carolina defines J. Drew Lanham’s remarkable, boundary-breaking memoir, The Home Place ... The Home Place is a work of undeniable poetry. Like John Muir, Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, and other trailblazers before him, Lanham writes rapturously of the natural world, of its majesty, sublimity, and wonder. He writes of being \'colored\' by the fields and the soil and the water, both in spirit and manifested in the beautiful hue of his skin. By helping to define a land ethic in a region where blacks have been historically dispossessed of their land, Lanham has created a book of monumental social, political, and philosophic importance.
RaveShelf Awareness... an addictive mix of gritty crime fiction and otherworldly horror ... Percy\'s prose is exacting, finely tuning the atmospherics that give the collection such an eerie overall feeling ... Percy adeptly switches between the tropes of horror and the trickier narrative structures of neo-noir. Several of the stories are grimly fascinating crime reads ... a testament to Percy\'s skill as a writer. He takes no shortcuts in eliciting thrills. The collection is by turns provocative and terrifying.
RaveShelf Awareness...a disturbing picture of what humans are capable of doing to each other ... What makes The Divers\' Game exceptional is the way Ball navigates this horrific world. It would have been easy to follow dystopian tropes, like setting up the quads for a rebellion. But that\'s not what Ball has in mind. He studies these two groups of people closely, allowing strange cultural practices to develop where human life is worth little. He\'s like an anthropologist of his own creation ... The Divers\' Game is strange and gripping. Ball can be forgiven the sense of fatalism that pervades the work because the world he has created is not unlike our own.
RaveShelf AwarenessJames Tate...has given the world one last wondrous poetry collection in The Government Lake. The 43 prose poems in this collection defy easy categorization. Perhaps they\'re best described as parables for the peculiar moral lessons they impart, but they\'re especially surreal ones, full of strange characters and dream imagery, bending reality with a nonchalant assurance reminiscent of the great magical realists more than other contemporary poets. Tate is a builder of small whimsical worlds, and the reader must not so much suspend disbelief as surrender all expectations upon entering ... bizarre...events are portrayed as ordinary happenstance, which makes the poems all the more alluring, as if Tate has stumbled upon another dimension hidden in plain sight. For all their otherworldliness, however, Tate grounds his poems in the human dimension. His characters struggle to understand each other better, and sometimes they succeed ... Whether quaintly sweet or unexpectedly sour, The Government Lake is fun to read. Tate is a master of wordplay and varying mood and effect. He is a wizard who will be missed.
RaveShelf Awareness...a series of essays as varied as they are wise ... Their central core is a section devoted to \'clinical tales\' in which Sacks discusses freely, and always with a deep sense of humanity, several patients and their neurological disorders that fascinated him ... Though these types of diseases are tragic, Sacks provides useful discoveries along the way ... These later essays are full of curiosity and awe ... Whether discussing botany or the intricacies of the brain, Sacks writes with the natural candor and wisdom of a great teacher. Everything in Its Place is his thoroughly illuminating last word.
PositiveShelf Awareness... wildly exploratory ... a nice mix of flash fiction and longer entries ... It\'s as if Hempel has a secret guide to her own creations, knowing the point of inflection for each ... If some of the flash fiction pieces feel slight, Hempel makes up for it in Cloudland ... Hempel creates an all-too-human character looking to escape the past but stymied by an equally menacing future ... Sing to It fascinates. It pulses with absurdist glee, but has enough humanity to ground its characters in the hard work of looking forward.
PositiveShelf AwarenessSpellbinding ... works on many levels. Luiselli breaks up her narrative with inventories, lists, quotes, maps, poems, photos, stories, statistics and more. These are blended into the book in a metafictional way so that, like her protagonists, Luiselli becomes an archivist of sorts, assembling reality from many disparate sources. The cumulative effect is powerful ... a haunting novel that illuminates timely issues.
Maurice Carlos Ruffin
PositiveShelf AwarenessProvocative ... Ruffin skewers institutional racism with style and wit. But he also reveals the insidious nature of racism and the complex psychology of the marginalized ... boldly explores race in America as few novels have. Ruffin tackles his subject matter with lively prose and an entertaining plot.
PositiveShelf Awareness\"Natasha Trethewey\'s collection of new and selected poems, Monument, offers a hefty cross-section of the poet\'s wide-ranging and important work ... As much as these poems look out into the world, though, some of the best look inward ... Monument is a momentous collection that uses verse to enshrine both the historical and deeply personal. It places Trethewey in the pantheon of American poetry.\
RaveShelf AwarenessThe Carrying won\'t disappoint fans. The 62 poems in this stellar new collection, divided into three sections, offer honest, lyrical observations on love, loneliness, life, death and all the mysteries in between ... Her poems are like trees, branching three-dimensionally in myriad directions. She performs a near-miraculous feat in balancing razor-sharp imagery with deep ambivalence ... It is this undying insistence on the goodness of the world that stays with the reader. The Carrying beautifully conveys the power of poetry in an age that needs it most.
RaveShelf AwarenessDeborah Eisenberg\'s marvelously unnerving collection Your Duck Is My Duck twists and untwists themes of family, class and language in six distinct, wholly entertaining stories ... While Eisenberg can be caustic at times—her humor dark—these stories alight on something tender: the weird way people try to remember and love each other ... Eisenberg pulls off her uncanny narrative structures with panache. Rarely have short stories felt so full. Your Duck Is My Duck is both quirky and profound, brimming with the dangers and wonders of life.
RaveShelf Awareness\"If future aliens find Tommy Pico\'s book-length poem Junk among the ruins of human civilization, they might understand what it was like being alive in the year 2018, on the cusp of major cultural and ecological change ... a stream-of-consciousness style that recalls the generation-defining mythos of Allen Ginsberg\'s Howl... It\'s the frivolity of Junk that makes its more serious themes and undertones all the more striking ... The genius of Junk lies in the poet\'s outward vision, in his ability, heeding \'the gusting forward of time,\' to create new space for himself and others like him, to create a new sense of identity.\
RaveShelf Awareness\"...bears all the hallmarks of the writer\'s intelligence, curiosity and precision with language ... As much as Chee\'s essays exhume the autobiographical details of his life, collectively they\'re concerned with something greater than autobiography--the struggle and triumph of the novel ... Entertaining and illuminating, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel will serve writing students and teachers well. Not a straightforward handbook on craft, its lessons nonetheless excite and inspire creative thinking. In equal measure, the collection\'s humanity and grace will tug the heartstrings of the general reader.\
RaveShelf AwarenessLike a bruised piece of fruit, it [Peach's language] oozes with ruined sweetness that one can't wash off after reading. The novel's moral lessons stick, and they're meant to ... Writing in the first-person, Glass revels in rhythmic fragments, rhyme and alliteration that create an uncanny stream-of-consciousness... Glass gives literal reality to these food-based characters – even their names designate their physicality and edibleness – but also makes them greater symbols of a consumer society ... All this adds up to a macabre playfulness that keeps Peach lively and luridly engaging throughout. Glass's imaginative wordplay opens up the very serious subject matter of sexual assault in new, frightening dimensions. In the end, Peach becomes a fable on revenge that is viscerally, gut-wrenchingly delivered ...a deceptively short, hugely provocative novel worth every bite.
PositiveShelf AwarenessIn his third novel, he pushes his talents to new heights ... A State of Freedom is a complex, groundbreaking novel that blends mythic pathos with unflinching social realism. Mukherjee's India is a place beset by poverty, corruption, exploitation and gross inequity, but a place, nonetheless, in which the human spirit survives.
RaveShelf AwarenessNine Continents doesn't pull any punches. Guo begins by delving into her impoverished childhood in the coastal fishing village of Shitang. Her early life with her grandparents is characterized by a hardscrabble existence in which she's ravenous. Her finely tuned, descriptive prose captures the austerity of peasant life ... Nine Continents shines much-needed light on the struggle of modern Chinese citizens to be free artistically and intellectually ... Piercing and poignant, Nine Continents serves as a bridge between two worlds and demonstrates the hardship of immigration but also the value of multiculturalism.
Carmen Maria Machado
RaveShelf Awarness\"Reading it is a heady and unnerving, sometimes horrifying, experience that opens up human identity as if it were a flower. From the dark corners of existence, from the cracks between pretensions, Machado conjures monsters and angels that, in the light of her deft yet sensuous prose, become painfully recognizable ... Machado melds folklore and fabulist images with the raw realities of love, sex, queerness and alienation, forging a poetic sensibility that\'s full and alive with possibilities in a way that narrower realism could never match ... Her Body and Other Parties has so many beautiful lines and sophisticated passages that it would be hard to highlight them all. More importantly, though, it demonstrates that literature, when forthright and brave, can simultaneously dig deep within the self and reframe the greater world.\