Books

No Judgments

In “Backyard,” the first of two stories in Sam Alden’s recent New Construction, a radical commune in a southern-seeming town must sort through tensions when one of its members—a young woman suffering from an unspecified sexual trauma—begins behaving exactly like a dog: going around on all-fours, barking, and antagonizing the communally kept chickens in the backyard.

A Pill for the Heart

Art and science: terminally uneasy bedfellows, or powerful partners in a new era of synergistic alliances? It’s a question that nags at anyone following the groundswell of enthusiasm for the convergence of these two fields.

The Imponderable Bloom

For an intellectual movement preoccupied with such august considerations as being, time, and death, existentialism has enjoyed an almost painless absorption into the popular culture since its grand Parisian heyday.

Escape from American Noise

It can look as if the poet Campbell McGrath is moving away from his strengths, in his new “Hubble Space Telescope: the Galaxies (1990).” Indeed, the piece appears in a book, XX: Poems for the Twentieth Century, about which you might say the same.

Don’t Think

In the best short-story collections, each successive story builds upon the previous, making the sum greater than the parts. Five-time Pushcart Prize winner Richard Burgin’s ninth short-story collection Don’t Think succeeds easily in that regard, with tight, thematic links between stories and an impressive tonal range that span from dark, depressing—even gross—to wildly humorous, subtle, and human.

In Conversation

CHRIS BACHELDER with Weston Cutter

I keep trying to think of some clever way to introduce Chris Bachelder’s new book, but the first instinct remains best: Chris Bachelder’s The Throwback Special is the best book of 2016, and the dream scenario for this year includes Bachelder being recognized and heralded, as it sure seems like he‘s been moving toward throughout his whole career.

The Art of Stepping Away from the Internet

The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone is a work of art history and art criticism—among several other genres—but it contains very few images. At the beginning of each chapter, we find just a single black-and-white photograph of the principal artist who will be discussed.

The Suicide of Claire Bishop

In her debut novel The Suicide of Claire Bishop, Carmiel Banasky does “crazy” as well as anyone now writing. Admittedly, my use of the word “crazy” might ring readers’ sensitivity bells since one of the principal characters in her novel suffers from schizophrenia. Perhaps it’s more to the point anyway to use the word adverbially and call Banasky’s novel crazy inventive.

Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here

Brian Evenson—nominated for the Shirley Jackson Award, finalist for the Edgar Award and the World Fantasy Award, winner of the International Horror Guild Award, the American Library Association’s award for Best Horror Novel, and recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and three O. Henry Awards—is considered a master of American horror.

This Great Violence

In Mike Lala’s In the Gun Cabinet, action and feeling is dodged like a bullet is dodged before it penetrates the surface. Its serial poems are shifty figurines of experiential soot. There are no explosions because guns don’t do that, instead they spark inside. And their power—the stuff that kills—happens in the strength with which it enters space or a body.

The Curiosity of the Long Distance Runner

Readers of the Brooklyn Rail may likely be familiar with Tin House, a literary magazine based in Portland and Brooklyn that produces four issues a year. The magazine is self-described as “artful and irreverent,” and keen to “stake out new territory,” which can sound generic until you read All Tomorrow’s Parties, the memoir by Tin House editor Rob Spillman, whose adventures began long before the magazine, as a four year old playing underneath his father’s piano in West Berlin in the 1960s:

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APR 2016

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