Reviews

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 9

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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.

January 31, 2014

Chain of Fate: On Gaito Gazdanov’s The Spectre of Alexander Wolf 0

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The question implicit in Gazdanov’s fascinating novel is whether such macabre determinism is self-perpetuated or inalterably woven into the fabric of our existence. Does believing we are doomed to die in a particular way bring about that very end — or do we believe it because we know in our prescient soul it’s the inexorable truth?

January 29, 2014

Waste Management: On Jonathan Miles’s Want Not 0

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Want Not craves pride of place with such “sprawling” novels of social commentary as Infinite Jest and Freedom. Surprisingly, though, it turns out not to be a didactic story about reducing, reusing, and recycling. It may be just the opposite, a subversive argument that we are focusing our attention on the wrong sort of waste.

January 29, 2014

Composing a Life: On Richard Powers’s Orfeo 5

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Watch Powers playfully scold his critics that, however well-intentioned, their judgments are inconsequential to the pursuit of art.

January 22, 2014

Hipster Noir: Sara Gran’s Claire DeWitt Novels 4

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In Claire DeWitt, Sara Gran has given the hard-boiled detective a good, hard hipster twist, creating a character with a savagely vigilant mind and a black heart always on the verge of breaking.