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John Domini

Domini's fourth novel, The Color Inside a Melon, was published this summer.

With Kings and Camp Counselors

A bristling yet alluring doohickey, ostensibly about a week away from the workaday world, Gabe Durham’s Fun Camp also signals the end for one of American publishing’s finest escapes from the ordinary.

Sibum in Nighttown

The Traymore Rooms, a novel at once hugely ambitious and never above an off-color crack, aspires to be the late triumph of a long career.

The Containable Apocalypse

Over the past decade, in our finer quarterlies, few names have turned up more often than Jacob M. Appel. You also found him among the finalists for awards in the short story—and among the prize-winners. I myself once floundered in Appel’s wake, merely a finalist while he was the finalist.

Continental Divine

About halfway along, just as we’re getting the hang of Luke Goebel’s wild and voluble debut—not so much a novel as a narrative kaleidoscope, putting a few essential shapes and colors through one tumble after another—we arrive at a whole new configuration. We come to the peyote trip.

Time Ages In a Hurry: Stories

Over in Italy, Time Ages In a Hurry was one of a spate of Antonio Tabucchi titles preceding his death in early 2012. He wasn’t that old, 68, but he’d long been battling cancer, and in his last year friends and family moved him from Siena, where he taught, to Lisbon, the home of his heart.

The Gut Wants What It Wants

Amelia Gray’s Gutshot bristles in the best way. Just about every prick and sting compels you to seek more, to take up the next story—gingerly—and the next. Indeed, the author’s second set of short fiction represents an advance for her in its size alone.

Story Towards Story

For a form defined by length, the novel depends remarkably on what it leaves out. Even a novelist who prefers to let the weeds go, a Proust or a Wallace, has to prune away a few.

Given Enough Rope

Lincoln Michel has brought off a worthy debut in Upright Beasts, a rowdy klatch of stories with a number of winners. The fictions leave their most beautiful bruises about halfway through, as the author swings without a hitch from the relative realism of the section titled “North American Mammals” to the stories collected under “Familiar Creatures,” each of them a wild narrative hair.

New York Stories

Here we have two new selections of stories from two New Yorkers, both on smaller presses, both by men we might still call young. More significantly, both refract their light through the same aesthetic prism—often throwing off lovely colors, I must add.

America the Dysfunctional

Few writers can match the bifurcated career—bifurcated yet brimful—of Frank Lentricchia. Starting at the end of the 1960s, as a professor at Duke, Lentricchia established himself as a literary critic of muscle and subtlety.

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.

Natural-Born Storytellers

If the expression “natural-born storyteller” hasn’t yet gone to the glue factory, then these two novels take the nag out for a fresh canter. Grace is a début for Natashia Deón, whose credentials include a PEN Fellowship, and while Allison Amend has three earlier books, and some prize recognition, she’s still young enough to have whipped up something new for Enchanted Islands.

Touring Trump Country in a Clown Car

For a story beset with some of the ugliest traumas of fractured contemporary America, Mary Troy’s busy new novel careens along with remarkable lightheartedness.

Daša Drndić’s Belladonna

Paging through Daša Drndić’s Belladonna, you can’t miss the lists of the dead. Twice during the later going, the text interrupts itself for page after page of names, in smaller-font double-columns. Names of the murdered, to be sure: victims of the Holocaust. 

Zachary Lazar's Vengeance

“I saw within myself,” admits our narrator, “a kind of ignorance that grew deeper the more I looked at it.” Sounds about right for his novel, too: the more deeply Vengeance draws us in—really, it’s hard to look away—the greater its ambiguity.

Joshua Mensch's Because, A Lyric Memoir

Among the many shocks and felicities in Joshua Mensch’s Because, one of the best is his way with a semi-colon.

Elle Nash's Animals Eat Each Other

In her debut novel, Animals Eat Each Other, Elle Nash has no interest in testing boundaries; instead, she crashes right through.

Running the Devil's Gauntlet: Ahmed Bouanani's The Hospital

Hades, Gehenna, Hell: every culture has one, a realm of punishment without end. By any name, too, it’s been inspiration without end. For creative types, the Awful Place allows awesome freedom.

Strange Objects & Sockdolagers

A persistent cliché insists that Big Publishing doesn’t like small fictions, yet such work keeps turning up on mainstream houses.

In Conversation

SALMAN RUSHDIE with John Domini

Towards the end of Salman Rushdie’s new Quichotte, we get the précis. We hear it from the author, but crucially, that’s not our author. The busy Manhattanite of 72, former PEN President, Booker Prize winner and more, the fatwa survivor who recently delivered a droll cameo on HBO.

In Conversation

LANCE OLSEN with John Domini

In Theories of Forgetting, Lance Olsen’s 12th novel and 25th book, he may have brought off the boldest departure of a career dedicated to such takeoffs. The formatting allows the text to be read in either direction, each featuring different fonts.

Zadie Smith Offers Some New Moves

I can’t deny the spell cast by Swing Time, Zadie Smith’s latest. I can’t hold back from declaring it first a career peak, one she’ll be hard-pressed to top, and beyond that a steep challenge for any novelist out there.

Tsitsi Dangarembga’s This Mournable Body

Zimbabwe's social fabric has often been in shreds, the worst toll often taken on the women: an ongoing catastrophe that provides the best background for appreciating the novels of Tsitsi Dangarembga

Jokha Alharthi: Celestial Bodies

Celestial Bodies delivers a cornucopia, the drama tasty whether it concerns a long day of overwrought celebration, scented with incense and envy, or a midnight tryst in the desert, mixing torment and ecstasy. Juggling multiple perspectives, eschewing straightforward chronology, the narrative coheres nevertheless.

Picking Over The Crumbs

Texas may be the southernmost point in the U.S., but it gets awfully cold. The chill pervades Larry McMurtry’s best novels, like The Last Picture Show (1966), in which the biting winds may carry away a young man’s soul. The same threat hangs over Brandon Hobson’s new slip of a novel, Deep Ellum.

Salman Rushdie's The Golden House

The most notable risk is the cutting-edge contemporaneity. The denouement of Golden House  unfolds pretty much at the moment we read it, in later 2017, and its tragic climax the previous fall has a lot to do with the tragedy of the last election.

Different Routes to Rarified Air

Both these texts expand the mind, taking the reading experience to places most never risk. One, Dreamlives of Debris, gets up into rarified air indeed, cleansing the system. As for The Gift, that’s perhaps less bracing, but always tangy and whip-smart. Before I explain further, however, I’ve got to look back half a century.

The Trouble with Men: Reflections on Sex, Love, Marriage, Porn & Power essays by David Shields

Before I consider a personal book, perhaps I should offer a personal story. My first substantive encounter with David Shields, following some long-distance business, was an interview for his 2017 selection of essays, Other People.

Dorothy Parker with a Ph.D.

Not only does Dubravka Ugresic’s novel appear in translation; you could say it’s about translation. The latest from a busy, brainy Croatian—her 14th book, half of them fiction—Fox consists primarily of worrying at various texts, though not all of them are literary.

MONSTROUS AMERICA

First encounter with Blake Butler’s new novel may leave you dazzled, yet also disoriented, and if so you’ll find a point of reckoning in Roberto Bolano’s 2666.

Flower or Whip?

You might call D. Foy’s Patricide a long and sorrowful aria over abuse in the home and its lingering damage; or you might call it a portrait of the scuffling white male, here in the U.S., detailing their recent tumble from King of the Mountain; or then again, it may be a scuzzball spiritual journey, Siddhartha Goes to AA, in which multiple addictions shred a young man almost to bits before he staggers to a kind of Buddhist enlightenment.

Defacing the Palimpsest:
Don DeLillo, New York Antagonist

For much of his career, on many of his books, one of the country’s most celebrated novelists confined his bio to a single line: “Don DeLillo lives in New York.” That was it, and more recently, as I dug into connections between the man’s work and his native city, I often suspected I wasn’t offering much better.

In Conversation

The Lonely Scrivener:
GAY TALESE with John Domini

Gay Talese tells me it feels strange not to begin a Monday morning in “the Bunker.” By this he means his Manhattan workspace.

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The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2019

All Issues