This summer has brought a couple more book reviews o’ mine:
I have a couple short stories out for submission, and while they’ve received some really, really nice comments from a few editors—especially for the weird little tales they are, one set in a Mongol Kingdom and other in 1891 Vienna—so far neither has found a home yet.
Slightly late to posting: my review of Javier Marías latest novel, Thus Bad Begins went live awhile back at Literal Magazine. I have written about Marías before, having reviewed his penultimate novel, The Infatuations, for The Millions.
Here’s how my review starts, picking up on a line I had mentioned in my review of The Infatuations:
Javier Marías doesn’t want to be “what they call a ‘real Spanish writer.’” These are authors who, Marîas says, prominently feature themes and motifs of classic Spain, including bullfighting and passionate women. While these tropes are certainly absent from his novels, which tend more to involve analytic and voluble narrators dissecting the vagaries of life, Marías is still obviously fascinated with the Spanish character, and with its gestalt, and perhaps that is in no clearer form than in his latest novel, Thus Bad Begins.
My review of Samanta Schweblin’s skin-crawlingly creepy Fever Dream is now live at Literal Magazine. My review, in a snippet:
For Fever Dream is truly less a dream and more a nightmare, although the kind that—like the best of horror—you cannot help but wanting to see through.
In a happy coincidence, the book was named to the Man Booker International Prize shortlist.
My review of Bad Faith by Ted Wheeler has gone live over at Necessary Fiction. A bit:
Most of the characters in Bad Faith aren’t nice, and Wheeler plumbs that not-niceness throughout. The Pythagoreans talked of good as definite and finite, and evil and indefinite and infinite. Niceness may make for a slogan, and a friendly face to provide directions, but it is often just a veneer.
Having followed Ted’s writing career from a distance for a while (as a fellow Nebraskan), it was fun to finally read some of his stories. It’s a great collection, and I’d heartily recommend it. Go buy it here.
My review of Salman Rushdie’s latest novel is online at the Lincoln Journal-Star and in today’s (Sunday’s) paper. It starts:
In all that has been written about him, no one has accused Salman Rushdie of lacking imagination. The author of the Booker Prize-winning “Midnight’s Children,” one of the past century’s great novels, as well as “The Satanic Verses,” the novel that brought a fatwa upon him, Rushdie has showed immense creative power.
Over a little less than 300 pages, his new novel, “Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights,” continues his impressive and inspired record, bursting with stories, anecdotes, ideas, outlandish characters, clever and bawdy jokes, verve and wit.
I quite liked the novel, although some parts were more impressive than others—but the parts that were good were really, really good.
My review of Richard Flanagan’s Man Book Prize-Winning novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North, is in today’s paper and is also online here. A bit:
Dorrigo Evans is considered by everyone— except himself — to be a war hero. A physician, he becomes the de facto leader of his fellow Australian POWs who are forced by their Japanese captors to build a railway through the jungles of Burma and into Thailand. Wracked by survivor’s guilt, Evans is the protagonist of Richard Flanagan’s Man Booker Prize-winning novel “The Narrow Road to the Deep North,” recently released in paperback.
My review of Álvaro Bisama’s novel Dead Stars is now live over at Necessary Fiction. Here’s how it begins:
Imagine if W.G. Sebald numbered his paragraphs. Imagine if he shucked many of those long, discursive takes on architecture and history. And imagine he abandoned his peripatetic plots and instead wrote about doomed and melancholy lovers. Perhaps this gives something of the aesthetic flavor of Álvaro Bisama’s novel Dead Stars,published in Spanish in 2010, but only now appearing in an English translation by Megan McDowell, the first from digital publishing house Ox and Pigeon.
I’ve updated my list of recent / upcoming publications, in case you’re looking for a review I’ve recently written. I have been fairly active lately—with only more coming out pretty soon (including a judgment).
My essay on Spanish writer Javier Marías has gone live at The Millions. It’s also a review of his latest novel, The Infatuations, which was just released this past Tuesday (August 11). The very short and very rough version of the essay: Marías is brilliant, and the book is brilliant, and you should read it. The full essay opens:
Maria Dolz sees the same couple at the same café in the same city, Madrid, nearly every morning. “[T]he sight of them together” calmed her, and provided her “with a vision of an orderly or, if you prefer, harmonious world.” Maria works for a book publisher, where she often must deal with vain and pretentious authors — including one who is so infatuated with the Nobel Prize that he has already prepared an acceptance speech in Swedish. She is somewhere just south of 40, and has not married. To her, the couple was the ideal form of love, a couple who unselfconsciously enjoyed every second in each other’s presence. “[I] didn’t regard them with envy, not at all,” Maria says, “but with a feeling of relief that in the real world there could exist what I believed to be a perfect couple.”
Partway through Telex from Cuba, Rachel Kushner’s debut novel, I was reminded of John Lennon. I had been reading into the background of the Beatles’ famous avant-garde experiment, “Revolution No. 9,” and had rediscovered some of Lennon’s astute political observations. Amid the chaos of the 1960s, when many youth and liberals and liberal youth spoke openly and with applause for revolution, Lennon—the prophet of counterculture, the epitome of the 1960s—railed against it. “As far as overthrowing something in the name of Marxism or Christianity,” Lennon said, “I want to know what you’re going to do after you’ve knocked it down. I mean, can’t we use some of it? What’s the point of bombing Wall Street? If you want to change the system, change the system. It’s no good shooting people.”