July 21, 2015

An Antidote for Horror: On William Finnegan’s ‘Barbarian Days: A Surfing Life’ 0


Barbarian Days, in the tradition of the great adventure memoir, is not only an account of events, of waves caught and conquered — it’s a reflection on fear, mortality, and the seductive pleasures that can be found at their very edge.

July 20, 2015

A World Is Hidden in the Things People Say: Linda Rosenkrantz’s ‘Talk’ 1


Talk said that women speak about sex, drugs, alcohol, S&M, masturbation, boys, adultery, abortion, the pill, vaginas, urination, underwear, penises, and periods. It vocalized an unfairly hidden world.

June 24, 2015

Dynamite Detroit Debut: On Angela Flournoy’s ‘The Turner House’ 0


There are many sentences in The Turner House that nail a sense of place with a precision long-time Detroiters like Elmore Leonard or Donald Goines would have envied.

June 23, 2015

What Doesn’t Matter: On Milan Kundera’s ‘The Festival of Insignificance’ 3


Kundera doesn’t deliver. Instead of exploring what brought these men together and makes their relationship work, he focuses instead on those relationships that hold no significance. In its own twisted logic, the novel asserts that the insignificant is actually significant and worthy of its own narrative.

June 16, 2015

May It Not Rest in Peace: On Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s ‘Cré na Cille’ 1


What if what awaits us after death is a continuation of the same petty dramas and sordid resentments? What if, after we’re lowered into our graves, we discover that all the other corpses in the cemetery are still chattering away in some kind of eternal bitchfest?

June 8, 2015

The Crime of Life: On Kamel Daoud’s ‘The Meursault Investigation’ 3


As in The Stranger, where no Arab is ever addressed by name, so too do Algerians of today operate nameless in the shadow of their rulers.

May 29, 2015

A Blacker Shade of Pale: On Mat Johnson’s ‘Loving Day’ 1


Loving Day is an entry in a small but vital subgenre: the Comic Mulatto Novel.

May 22, 2015

Off Leash: On André Alexis’s ‘Fifteen Dogs’ 1


Alexis’s conceit, in which dogs are caught between human and canine worlds, in a sense reflects their real-life predicament: dogs are creatures upon whom owners project distinctly human intelligence and emotions.

May 22, 2015

The Creative Chrysalis: On Neal Stephenson’s ‘Seveneves’ 10


A big heaping slab of idea-packed, throwback, hard sci-fi, Stephenson’s latest brick of a book is thought-provoking but staid; a sad turn for one of the sharpest, most irreverent minds in a genre still reinventing itself.

May 20, 2015

Beyond Rent Hikes: On DW Gibson’s ‘The Edge Becomes The Center’ 0


Gibson understands that a conversation about gentrification can be an opening to talk about everything from the nuts and bolts of tenant law, to the habits of graffiti artists, to the legacy of Jane Jacobs, to the future of the DiBlasio administration, to the popularity of Project Runway, to the basic human question of how to get along with other people.