Reviews

October 23, 2012

There Is a Miami Beyond This Miami: On Back to Blood by Tom Wolfe 14

by

Miami is a veritable treasure chest of weird. Hell, they eat people’s faces here. They overdose on bugs. They alternately molest and cockblock manatees. Wolfe, who loves realism, should’ve been able to uncover these things and more.

October 19, 2012

Comforting the Disturbed, Disturbing the Comfortable: A.M. Homes’s May We Be Forgiven 14

by

One can certainly follow the advice of the dust jacket and read the novel as a darkly comic tale about a family reinventing itself after a series of blunders and tragedies. But wouldn’t it be more fun to pay attention to the book’s duplicity?

October 19, 2012

My Eyes Are in My Feet: On Robert Macfarlane’s The Old Ways 1

by

It appears that the pleasures of ambling, dawdling, sauntering, strolling, and even straight-up walking have been subordinated to the means/end logic of appointments, schedules, and target bodies. Activities get slotted into temporal compartments so that maximum utility is gained and the humble walk is relegated to nuisance.

October 16, 2012

A Departure from Reason: César Aira’s The Miracle Cures of Doctor Aira 1

by

César Aira’s novels are the narrative equivalent of the Exquisite Corpse, that Surrealist parlor game in which players add to drawings or stories without knowledge of previous or subsequent additions. The final result never fails to surprise and amuse.

October 15, 2012

Strange Long Dream: Justin Cronin’s The Twelve 3

by

Once again Cronin has superbly handled the difficult task of writing a character-driven adventure story. The vampires remain terrifying, but they’re arguably less terrifying than the humans who have decided to collaborate with them in order to survive.

October 9, 2012

Love You Madly: The Dorothy Project and Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi’s Fra Keeler 2

by

Fra Keeler can be viewed as a critique of the attraction many writers, readers, critics, and scholars have to the clichéd glamor of evil, who fetishize the gorgeous anguish associated with men struggling with mental illness. Sure, it may only be fiction. But our enjoyment of it says a lot.

September 26, 2012

Lamenting the Modern: On Zadie Smith’s NW 10

by

Smith is able to build a very solid portrait of her protagonist from bits and pieces, implying that this is how we are all fashioned by our society and that perhaps such a form is the best way to render modern experience.

September 26, 2012

Those Grand, Wicked Futures: The Library of America’s American Science Fiction: Nine Classics Novels of the 1950s 9

by

From Bester to Heinlein, Sturgeon to Matheson, this collection digs deep into the decade’s traumas and comes up with visionary gold.

September 25, 2012

The ‘You’ In Yunior: Junot Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her 3

by

Yunior is not a bad guy, but he is growing up, and as Diaz is honest enough to admit in this collection, getting older isn’t necessarily all mellowing out and seeing the error in your youthful ways.

September 17, 2012

The Girls’ Guide to War: Shani Boianjiu’s The People of Forever Are Not Afraid 1

by

If you are finding it just a little difficult to picture a Venn diagram where a novel-in-stories about the Vietnam War intersects with a Tina-Fey penned movie about the travails of high school girls, consider this: both war and high school are marked by a strange blend of ennui and nearly unbearable stress, of existential dread and petty banality.