Reviews

March 7, 2013

Like a Woman Scorned: On James Lasdun’s Give Me Everything You Have 34

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In order to paint Nasreen as a mad woman with a powerful grudge, Lasdun takes an unnecessarily dry and impersonal tone, using supplementary texts on the nature of obsession to further his case. As he goes into his analysis, painting Nasreen as a stalker and himself as a heroic naïf, the more he starts to sound like Humbert Humbert, more complicit than innocent, more culpable than defensible.

March 4, 2013

Ordinary People: Jim Gavin’s Middle Men 0

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The central concern of his collection is the tension between the ordinary life and the extraordinary. All of Gavin’s protagonists are rooted in the former. “I’m going to Cypress Junior College,” someone says in “Play the Man.” “My step-mom went there, so I’m a legacy.”

February 22, 2013

Drinking at the End of the World: Lars Iyer’s Exodus 5

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Enduring the everyday is relatively straightforward — just keep breathing and putting one foot in front of the other — but how to transcend the everyday, in this world neither you nor I have made?

February 19, 2013

Occupy Parnassus!: Kirill Medvedev’s ‘It’s No Good’ 1

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Occupy Wall Street may have had real consequences for our national economic debate, but its vision of a just society again seems hazy, as if glimpsed from the far side of sleep. We need some outside force to jolt us back awake. Kirill Medvedev, meet your audience.

February 19, 2013

A Dimension of Mind: Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge 1

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The book opens with a story about a woman’s ritual of ordering the same cake to mark her dead son’s birthday year after year, and closes with a story with a woman discovering the body of the first woman’s son. Somewhere in between these bookends, the work morphs into a metafictional ghost story.

February 13, 2013

The Kid Is Alright: On Teddy Wayne’s The Love Song of Jonny Valentine 1

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Does it matter to us how culture is made? Won’t we swallow the cooked-up laboratory celebrity just as easily as the authentic talent?

February 13, 2013

The Ponderer: Phillip Lopate’s Portrait Inside My Head 1

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The centerpiece essay embodies much of what makes Lopate such a compelling essayist: a gift for translating the most personal experience to nearly universal relevance, while at the same time retaining a novelist’s facility for analyzing characters, including himself.

January 30, 2013

Faith and Fiction: The Testament of Mary by Colm Tóibín 13

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This is the story of a woman living out her last days in exile with the excruciating memory of watching the torture and crucifixion of her only son. In Tóibín’s hand, the Virgin Mary is more than her role as a mother or a symbol. Instead, she becomes the most interesting of creatures: a credible human.

January 16, 2013

Shadows and Electricity: Juliann Garey’s Too Bright To Hear Too Loud To See 0

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Greyson Todd is a man on a wire. He has excelled as a studio executive in Hollywood, and has everything that one’s supposed to want: a kind and supportive spouse, a lovely child. Money, beautiful house, glamourous career. But he’s been hiding a bipolar disorder for two decades, and it’s getting harder and harder to breathe.

January 15, 2013

Why Are We Still Reading About Vietnam? Kill Anything That Moves by Nick Turse 6

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Kill Anything That Moves should be required reading in every school, military academy and governmental office in the land. Not that it will stop us from blundering into the next war.