RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewIf it’s possible for a woman to live convincingly as a man, even one as alcoholic and dyspeptic as Abe, Koelb demonstrates precisely how it’s done. Abe’s impregnation of Inez is not a scene you are likely ever to forget ... Here is a novel of bewitching ingenuity, one whose darkling, melodic mind conceives a world of ruin and awe, a sensibility cast in sepia or else in a pall of vying grays ... When too many rookie novels sputter and sag...Trenton Makes boasts the force of real freshness. It asserts its authenticity in the plinths and joists of its architecture, in the bold intricacies of character and plot, but also in the only spot that truly matters: the prose.
Glen David Gold
RaveThe Seattle Times\"Those admirers of Glen David Gold’s two novels, Sunnyside and Carter Beats the Devil, won’t be surprised to see that his memoir, I Will Be Complete, is a banquet of vivacity, shrewdness and wit, a soiree of heart-wreck wised up by humor. Nor will admirers be surprised by Gold’s welcome gusto as a stylist: His prose overall boasts an assertive, assured presence, unafraid of appealing directly to readers in the realization of its purpose.\
MixedThe Washington PostIf ever you’ve wanted to read a book about the impossibility of writing a book, First Person is the book for you, a story about a storyteller trying to decode another storyteller ... If the first half boasts a shimmering ingenuity and ominousness, the second half goes down in a Hindenburg of repetition and falsity and tedium ... But at its most persuasive, First Person is an aria on the necessity of self-invention, on the loops and lacunas of memory and the bullish inadequacy of all language ... At a time when truth is daily contorted, debauched or ignored, we require Flanagan’s artful reminder of the wreckage caused by our unwillingness to say what happened.
RaveThe Washington Post\"Herein are those unmistakable Johnsonian questers and wastrels, narcotized poets and cons, ragged pilgrims ill fit for society, all of them conveyed in prose tingling from the concussion of the sacred and profane, with a sensibility beautifully receptive to bursts of black humor … His chief concern is the language of the sublime, the embrace of awe, how to transcend the quotidian crush of our lives. He will come to be lauded not only as the holy stylist he’s always been, but as a gnostic seer shaking between damnation and deliverance.\
Ismail Kadare, Trans. by John Hodgson
RaveThe Washington Post\"This bantam masterwork by Albania’s most eminent novelist has been fired in the forge of actual horror: Albania’s Stalinist dictatorship, which ravished the citizenry from 1945 to 1991. Kadare’s mellifluous fever dream is a portrait of madness: the madness of the Stalinist state and the madness of men and women in the clamp of the state’s machinations ... Kadare’s characters would be right at home inside the purgatorial world of Waiting for Godot ... At a time when parts of the world are indulging nostalgia for communism, Kadare’s novel confronts the infuriating impossibility of art in an autocratic, anti-individualist system.\
Orhan Pamuk, Trans. by Ekin Oklap
PanThe Washington PostPamuk’s chief handicap as a novelist has always been his eager didacticism, his spotlighting of all the allusions and symbols. Here there are symbolic stars, symbolic books, symbolic women, intercut with loads of uselessly deep musings about the firmament. To be insistently metaphorical is one thing; to be insistently metaphorical while repeatedly explaining those metaphors is something else. Pamuk is forever afraid his reader isn’t paying attention. The marshaling of myth can make for dynamic storytelling, but Pamuk is too frequently a stranger to the potency of nuance, to the furtive unfoldings of character and plot. The real trouble here is the translator’s prose. Ekin Oklap’s incessant reliance on dead language does great injury to Pamuk’s already damaged tale ... What you’ll have to decide is whether Pamuk has penned the Sophoclean tragedy he aimed for or just another Turkish melodrama.
MixedThe Washington PostPart of the intermittent charm of this memoir is its restoration of that deleted era, a contemplative delving into what now seems antiquity ... At just 175 pages, spattered with 'I don’t know' and 'I’m not sure,' Between Them is a wisp of a book. It 'might seem incomplete or lacking,' Ford says, and it certainly does ... At its strongest, with simply etched sentences and slow stabs of wisdom, this memoir conjures Rock Springs, Ford’s faultless 1987 story collection...At its weakest, though, Ford’s prose mopes with at-hand utterances ... he has attempted a gentle reckoning here, his own exertion of mercy and mourning — his parents breathe in him still — and the attempt alone makes a loving homage.
RaveThe Washington PostThe novel’s Marquezian title might have been 'Love in the Time of Migration,' though this magical love story is, like most love stories told in full, a loss-of-love story — love abraded by the pitiless stipulations of living ... Hamid has been much laureled for the lucent beauty of his prose. The sentences of Exit West are persuasively stressed with a fairy-tale frankness and its sinister undertow ... Hamid understands that the novelist is no pamphleteer, no bitter soap-boxer. Writers of imaginative prose have a responsibility only to their own story, to whatever beauty and wisdom that story demands, and to the moral pulsing manifest in their sensibility, their style ... No novel is really about the cliche called 'the human condition,' but good novels expose and interpret the particular condition of the humans in their charge, and this is what Hamid has achieved here.
MixedThe Barnes & Noble ReviewProse casts an often shrewd eye over the fine-graded delineations of the New York society her players inhabit ... When Prose hovers over the stage, detailing the various travesties of the show, she’s at her most comically astute. When she exits the theater to chronicle the dutifully unhinged lives of her characters, most of whom come freighted with unnecessarily traumatic back-stories, she trots down avenues of forced earnestness, straining for an emotional gravitas the story doesn’t need or want ... Worse, much the novel is too breezily confected, with no linguistic commitment — the loose, nearly automatic language has all the attendant cliché you’d expect.
RaveThe New Republic[Ozick's] is a criticism of nourishing potency that finds equal footing with the literature it seeks to augment. Reading her you understand immediately how criticism can itself soar with art, and how the critical essay well done is its own best argument for being ... A sorceress of silken prose, wholly incapable of platitude, of cliché, of even the stray dead phrase, Ozick can make anything happen with a sentence, proving that the valence of sensibility must manifest in style.
MixedThe New RepublicMichael Shelden’s made-for-daytime biography, Melville in Love lets you know up front what new detail Shelden believes he’s disinterred: Melville’s mistress ... Shelden’s panting, cliché-choked style soon has you reaching for the light switch and candle, then the cigarette and bonbons ... Shelden proceeds, page upon page, with the dauntless pluck of a conspiracy theorist out to show that Elvis killed Kennedy. The tenet that bold claims require bold evidence? Shelden is having none of it ... Worse, he’s consistently inept at handling Melville’s language ... an extended gossip column for those voyeurs who believe that every Melville needs an inamorata.
RaveThe New RepublicThe critic who parses the artist parsing death must be every inch as intrepid as the artist himself. In The Violet Hour, Katie Roiphe delivers a composite of daring beauty on the deaths of Susan Sontag, Sigmund Freud, John Updike, Dylan Thomas, and Maurice Sendak, a necessary report from 'the deepening shades,' as Yeats has it, rife with her hospitable authority and critical rectitude...Here is a critic in supreme control of her gifts, whose gift to us is the observant vigor that refuses to flinch before the Reaper.
PanThe New RepublicContinuously cheated in their lives, the kids of Hillhouse are cheated anew in Lit Up. Denby’s isolated chapter offers only a glance into their ordeal, and that’s a shame both for them and the book, because the underdog’s story is almost always worthier and more compelling than the champ’s. His brief time at Hillhouse underlines the limits of literature: Those students most in need of great books are by and large too strafed by their environments to invest the necessary force of mind.