MixedThe Los Angeles Review of BooksWe tend to associate world-weariness with age and experience, but as Shani Boianjiu’s stunning debut demonstrates, some experiences age us independent of the actual passage of time ... At times, the novel’s reflections on love and loss, desire and despair, read like poetry. Encountering a familiar smell, a character describes it as \'the opposite of memory. A thing other than other.\' And for all its bleakness, this book is not short on humor ... In this novel — as in the real-life version of Israel — the comic and the grotesque exist side by side ... In The People of Forever Are Not Afraid one sometimes feels as if the author is herself losing interest in her subject — or subjects. This might explain why this novel, so rich in its descriptions of military life and youthful angst, lacks any sense of meaningful character development.
MixedLos Angeles View of BooksCohen, who started out as a poet and published four books of poetry and a novel before launching his musical career in the 1960s, spent the months leading up to his death in November 2016 completing what he knew would be his final manuscript. While the quality of the poetry in this book is sometimes uneven, it’s clear that Cohen remained sharp until the very end, and the book, a kind of farewell tribute by the poet-prophet, offers ample evidence of his abiding sense of humor.
Andrew Sean Greer
PanThe Chicago TribuneAlas, Greer's subsequent work has consistently fallen short of the standard set by The Confessions of Max Tivoli, a sobering reminder that early success can be a mixed blessing. Reading Greer's most recent novel, Less, I found myself searching for evidence of genius, which I wanted to believe was still there, lurking somewhere between the lines. Instead, I found myself tripping over awkward phrases and ill-chosen metaphors in a work whose title turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy ... Everything here screams comedy, but somehow the joke never takes off. The problem, it seems, has less to do with the story itself than with the prose.
Haruki Murakami, Trans. by Philip Gabriel & Ted Goossen
PanThe Chicago TribuneIn each of these stories, male desire is glorified under the guise of existential loneliness, and the women's function is reduced to that of potential saviors. Not surprisingly, the female characters in this collection are never fully realized ... a motif that undermines this entire collection, one in which unrestrained male lust is glorified under the guise of existential loneliness and female characters serve as mere vehicles for the fulfillment or denial of male longing.
PositiveThe Chicago TribuneAs a work of fiction that is set in the turbulent 1960s and '70s that makes repeated reference to the monumental events of the era, specifically the assassination of John F. Kennedy (who, in this narrative, is killed in 1970 after many attempts on his life) and the horrors of the Vietnam War, Means' novel could have easily fallen prey to these pitfalls. That it does not speaks to Means' talent as a writer of imagination and vision, someone for whom history is not ossified but still very much alive, and rich with possibilities for reinvention...[T]here is a lot to unpack in this novel whose central themes include, but are hardly limited to, trauma, memory and violence.
PanThe Chicago TribuneA good adaptation makes the reader want to go back and revisit the original, something Cunningham's A Wild Swan fails to do...That Cunningham strips these stories of their magic seems, to me, unforgivable. If I am inclined to go back to the originals after reading Cunningham it is only because I feel compelled to rescue them from this fundamental violation.
Yehuda Amichai, ed. Robert Alter
PositiveThe Chicago TribuneBookended by a brief but illuminating introduction and notes that contextualize allusions that might otherwise be lost on the English reader, the book is impressive in its scope while allowing for direct access to the poems.
PanChicago TribuneViscerally rich descriptions are not enough to bring a novel to life, and on the whole Brooks' The Secret Chord flails somewhere between history and fiction. Neither entirely convincing nor particularly compelling, Brooks' novel is a prototypical work of historical fiction that falters under the constraints of its own genre.