Reviews

March 12, 2014

The Lightest Touch: On Robert Walser’s A Schoolboy’s Diary 6

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In a world where attention spans are getting shorter by the minute, Walser’s micro-sketches may yet drag him out of obscurity and into the limelight.

March 11, 2014

Blood Will Out: Walter Kirn Brings Us News of Ourselves 1

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When Walter Kirn asks Gerhartsreiter, over prison phone, what the key to manipulating people is, he says, “I think you know.” Only when Kirn concedes this does Gerhartsreiter give him an answer: “Vanity, vanity, vanity.”

March 5, 2014

Descendant of Fear: On Scott Stossel’s My Age of Anxiety 2

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Life for Scott Stossel has been a gauntlet of morbid what-ifs: what if I pass out, lose control of my bowels, bolt from the podium in the midst of a speech? To keep such mayhem at bay, he’s medicated himself with bourbon, scotch, gin, and vodka. By prescription, he has taken Klonopin, Xanax, Ativan, Imipramine, Wellbutrin, Nardil, Thorazine, Zoloft, Effexor, Paxil, and Propranolol.

March 5, 2014

Hot Beats and High Genre: Submergence by J.M. Ledgard 0

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High genre is fiction that allows you to investigate an individual text, because it is full of its own traits and merits, whether in its characterizations, its plot, or its prose. Regular genre, I suppose, is something you can only talk about as a family — tracing the themes shared collectively among its members. High genre will always be vulnerable to the taint of its lower peers, because it shares the equipment, the same beats. This is why people are drawn to True Detective, and yet can accept assertions that it is just another dead naked lady show.

March 4, 2014

Getting With the Program: On MFA vs. NYC 16

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What was clearly intended as a series of artsy-smartsy essays examining the state of play in literary America too often comes off as an extended moan of self-pity from a once-cosseted corner of Brownstone Brooklyn.

February 28, 2014

I’m with the Losers: On Dubravka Ugrešić’s Europe in Sepia 6

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The prognosis? It’s not good. Ugrešić laments what has become of the author who has to perform to earn a pittance and a hot meal. She laments a culture where action and image trump the self-doubt and time for contemplation.

February 24, 2014

Haunting Us Still: W.G. Sebald’s A Place in the Country 1

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What the book may lack in personal revelations about the author, it makes up for with a better understanding of his process.

February 21, 2014

A Feast for the Vicarious Foodie: On Michelle Wildgen’s Bread and Butter 8

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And the food! If nothing else (and there is plenty else), the novel revels in its cuisine. Sentences are peppered with exquisite dishes throughout and take detailed note of the textures and presentation and garnishes, allowing reader gorge. Dishes served include pig’s ear, hard salami, putty-colored lambs tongue, rabbit ragù with pappardelle, salted brittle, and sardines.

February 14, 2014

A Valentine’s Day Reading: Dan Rhodes’s Marry Me 0

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A hint of menace creeps in; the title seems less and less like a question or plea and more like an imperative to submit to Eros and the attendant havoc.

February 10, 2014

The Immortal Gaviero: Alvaro Mutis’ Maqroll Adventures 2

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I can think of no better way to honor both the man and his singular hero possessed of an “incurable wanderlust” and a “vocation for defeat” than by quoting the latter’s bathroom graffiti, bits of wisdom written by the Gaviero in his seclusion.