Reviews

March 21, 2013

Lives within Lives within Lives: Aleksandar Hemon’s The Book of My Lives 2

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There is, it seems, no end to the lives of Aleksandar Hemon.

March 20, 2013

The Navigation of Birds and the Balance of Cats : On Jessica Francis Kane’s This Close 1

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This Close is about the way the people evolve over time; the numerous faces any individual wears over the course of his or her life, and the near-impossibility of truly knowing anyone.

March 19, 2013

Lost in the Land of Self-Help: Mohsin Hamid’s How To Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia 0

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Hamid’s flawed but beautifully written new novel follows the trajectory of a self-made man in an unnamed country.

March 12, 2013

Who Are We Without Our Stories? Jonathan Dee’s A Thousand Pardons 3

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The first twenty pages has the feel of a cable TV pilot, not the opening chapter of a literary novel. I even cast it in my mind, and became half-convinced that if I could just get Alison Janney to commit to play Helen, I could have it on HBO in time for the fall season.

March 7, 2013

One Woman’s Place in Time: Jamaica Kincaid’s See Now Then 3

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We use time-lapse photography to witness the things we can’t see in real time — the blooming of a flower or a tree coming into leaf. Kincaid uses the form of the novel to illustrate the things that Mrs. Sweet could not see in her own life, flipping through the ordinary moments that make up Mrs. Sweet’s mostly sweet existence to reveal the larger story: that of a disintegrating marriage.

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.