RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksStella Maris is...not so much a book as it is a character transcription. But is this character compelling? Does she meet the impossibly high standard set for her in The Passenger? The answer to that question is yes and no — but I believe Stella Maris to be a greater achievement because the answer is not just a simple yes ... If Stella Maris were simply an extended portrait of a gifted intellectual, it would be an admirable book ... Yet Stella Maris is a much more complicated endeavor than a laudatory biography. The figure of Alicia both attracts and repels us in a way that simple description of her mathematical gifts could never accomplish ... What attracts us is the portrait of a genius that McCarthy convincingly constructs. What repels us is the pomposity that accompanies a true believer ... How lovely and how sad are the many complications that comprise the character of Alicia Western. And this is what makes Stella Maris a true work of literature.
RaveLos Angeles Review of Books... capacious in its inclusion of various details specific to its period in history ... The novel also develops believable characters who have jobs and varied responsibilities appropriate to their period ... these narratological elements of emplotment, perfectly realized as they are, are not what give The Night Watchman its particular flavor. The essential substance of the novel has relatively little to do with the actual stories being told. Rather, the novel’s specific effect has to do with a juxtaposition of two types of language. There is the language of government, and then there is the language of the people of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa or Ojibwe (or Anishinaabe) Indians ... This plainness of language also filters down to Erdrich’s own narrative style, which does not mean it is merely ordinary or inelegant...Erdrich’s style in The Night Watchman is neither ornate nor hallucinatory...The words of this novel are compelling in their precise simplicity ... It is a fully satisfying experience to read Erdrich’s novel. I put The Night Watchman down with a heavy heart. Not out of disappointment — far from it. It is a sad thing to finish the book because when you are reading it you are in the hands of a master storyteller, and you know you are in such hands. There is no question and thus no anxiety about the matter. You never wonder, \'Will she pull this off?\' You know she will. Rather than inducing boredom as foreknowledge might in other contexts, this means you can relax and indulge in the pleasures of reading. The story is unfolding before you, and as it is unfolding, you know that you are going to enjoy it. As Auden might put it: here is an author that completely warrants your trust. It is this feeling of reassurance that I will miss, as I move on to other books — books that are possibly great, but who knows? Maybe they will disappoint me; maybe I will be not uplifted but cast down; there is no way to be certain. With The Night Watchman, you are sure from the start, and that little bit of certainty is a great comfort in our inconstant world.
RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksThe first novel, titled The Peripheral, was a New York Times best seller notable for its heady mixture of drone manipulation, time travel, apocalypse, and alternate history, all these devices being combined in a narrative prose precise in its physical and technological descriptions ... Verity Jane, on the other hand, seems a kind of cipher for the action of the second novel: she basically goes along with everything, and is a fairly empty character as a result ... Verity Jane’s emptiness makes space for the novel to be full of other things: the above mentioned fast-paced action, but also a much more extensive development of characters familiar from the first novel, especially a public relations specialist named Wilf Netherton ... we can see why Gibson remains an essential novelist. We should not be deceived by the novel’s thriller form and science fiction trappings into thinking Agency is not serious, idea-driven literature ... The genius of Agency, particularly in its injection of affect in relation to Eunice, is to show just how much people — especially at this moment in history — desire such practical direction for their lives ... To finish Agency is to be initially happy, satisfied by the utopian ending — and then increasingly disturbed, as one continues to think about what this happy conclusion entails.
Patrick Modiano, trans. by Mark Polizzotti
PositiveLos Angeles Review of Books\"We continue to be the beneficiaries of Modiano’s pain with this new novel, which has many of the satisfactions typical of a Modiano novel: absent parents, chance encounters, disappearing women, dalliances in the occult, the mysteries of Paris charted via specific streets and the seasons ... Compared to recent works, however, Sleep of Memory does not have the formal purity of The Black Notebook or the humor of So You Don’t Get Lost in the Neighborhood ... Sleep of Memory is missing these elements of formal purity and humor. Still, it has other virtues. First, it has some of the best aphorisms one can find in Modiano ... Second, there is an unforgettable evocation of domestic space when the narrator goes to visit a friend of a friend named Madeleine Péraud, who teaches yoga and occult sciences ... The third and final virtue has to do with horror. Sleep of Memory manages to attach a feeling not just of unease but of genuine terror to the past.\
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BookFans will not be surprised...to find that The Only Story—being a British teenage romance—is a perfectly accomplished book, with no missteps, inconsistencies, or obvious shortcomings. But is it any more than that? Is Barnes...just playing it safe? In terms of topic, perhaps. But not in the way that topic is handled, not in the least. The Only Story stakes bold claims and provokes surprising questions that demonstrate Barnes is anything but resting on his laurels ... Paul’s love story may not be all that interesting, but Barnes’s analysis of it certainly is. As in his other works, the author applies a scalpel to human consciousness to expose his protagonist’s intentions, beliefs, and neuroses with astute observation ... Each part of The Only Story possesses its unique voice and memorable descriptions. Taken as a whole, the novel provides a kind of phenomenology of love as it unfolds in human consciousness in its different stages: development, dissolution, and remembrance ... At times, accomplished novelists take on fairly banal plots just so they can show what they can do with them ... This is one of those plots, and—through his precise attention to the marvels of love and his perfect stylistic accompaniments to each state—Barnes has once again shown himself capable of transforming the mundane and ephemeral into the lyrical and lasting.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksIn Mrs. Osmond, the Irish novelist John Banville has endeavored to answer the question that James answered only in part. This is an extension of Isabel’s story, and a convincing one at that ... The plot is in some ways borrowed from Henry James and in some ways is Banville’s own invention; even that invention, however, has as its impetus a deep familiarity with James’s novel ... Banville has a knack for devising unexpected yet thoroughly characteristic acts ... Those who have read him before will know the siren song he weaves; it doesn’t even matter if one wants to put the story aside, one simply cannot ... Banville has given us a great gift.