Jim Gavins Middle Men is a fantastic book for any number of reasons, not least of which is its genesis story (hes one of those plucked-from-the-slush-at-the-New-Yorker genesis stories that are both maddening but glorious, evidence that the unlikely is always worth believing in).
Aphoria is an antiquated term synonymous with barren, specifically regarding female reproduction. Theres also aporia, which is (according to thefreedictionary.com) A figure of speech in which the speaker expresses or purports to be in doubt about a question, plus theres aphasia, having to do with language disorders, losing the ability to speak, etc.
My interest is in addressing the writer Jean Thompson and her work at present, but one is immediately confronted with the question of where to begin.
One cant read much about Tampa without seeing mention of it being a reverse-Lolita, but Tampa is far more than merely a book with a creepily propulsive idea behind it.
Flash fiction is weird for any number of reasons, not least that when flash fiction fails, the reader can end up feeling not so much like the specific story failed, but like the enterprise of flash fiction is untenable.
Its totally fair to greet any new book about the Beatles with the SNL-ish derisive question: really? What could possibly be left to pick at on those ghostbones?
Maybe you know about Kevin Barry because you were one of the lucky ones who read his City of Bohane (Graywolf, 2012), either before or after it was shortlisted for the Costa and then when it won the IMPAC Dublin Literary award. Maybe you found him, as I did, by reading his story Fjord of Killary when it was published in early 2010 in the New Yorkerremember, that weird story with the steadily insistent writing about the guy who bought a hotel and ran a bar and, in the story, theres a flood coming? Remember?
I once worked in a bookstore and this large soft, new-age guyLennon-ish spectacles, long hair, deep interest in eastern philosophies and martial arts/practices, tea instead of coffeewas just enough off that I couldnt like him. One night he was doing stock work in the basement, and, the next day, we discovered that, along with stocking, hed scrawled Collins poems on large sheets of paper and taped them all around. They stayed hanging up the rest of the time I worked at the bookstore, neither offensive nor in-enough to matter. They were mental furniture.
Jaime Clarkes Vernon Downs is a fast-moving and yet, at times, quite sad book about, in the broadest sense, longing. The specifics of the longing, ultimately, revolve around a simple premise: a boy (Charlie Martens) has a crush on a cute British girl (Olivia). He wants to impress her, wants her in the most basic, biological way.
Let’s acknowledge that the vast majority of art involves a balance between being asked something and being given something (usually, attention/work given over for the deep pleasure of meaning/empathy/story/connection), and let’s further acknowledge that the way we usually think about this stuff has to do with whether the art is easy/commercial or hard/pure.
Kevin Barry writes the best sentences in English and his new novel, Beatlebone, is outrageously goodbetter even than his massively well-regarded and awarded (and excellent) début novel City of Bohane.
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.
When Ford Madox Ford wrote, “This is the saddest story I’ve ever heard” he was wrong. When he wrote that, he couldn’t have known about the Replacements either, so we have to give him a pass. Still, almost a century after he opened his novel about a soldier’s fall-apart life with that line, the historical record needs to be corrected: the saddest story ever is the story about Minnesota’s greatest band, the Replacements.
One solid reason for choosing to review books is for the possibility of being blown completely back in your chair on getting a book you didn’t see coming. The frequency of this occurrence isn’t of course all that great: lots of times the books that hit real hard send their own little tremors forward, warnings like those that precede earthquakes though, certainly, some of this has to do with how attuned a reviewer might be to the larger book publishing industry.
It’s weirdly easy to no longer be quite so shocked by what John D’Agata’s pulled off with his three-volume American Essay series for Graywolf.
Yet here we are now with Bob Hicok’s latest collection, Sex & Love &, and it’s a book resolutely concerned, as ever, with the tiny infinite aspects of life, those smallest irreducible bits of existence that constitute what buzzing hum we sometimes believe we hear, but this one’s using sex and love as its entrance point to those tiny bits.
Gina Wohlsdorf’s Security contains at least two major stories, and while one of them is a fairly sweet love story about wounded folks who manage to find each other and their way, the other one is so unbelievably terrifying and fraught that it’s actually easy to overlook, or certainly attempt to speed through, the sweeter parts of this novel.
One wants not to praise faintly: this isn’t simply an admirable book, one of those this-is-good-for-you literary vitamins. Dog Years is that, but it’s also quietly startling, drawing the reader’s eye toward the quiet, tiny details that make life accrue feeling and sense, maybe even meaning.
A tempting entrance in reviewing Megan Abbott’s almost freakishly propulsive You Will Know Me is to note that your reviewer’s a 37-year-old white male with nothing more than the casual quadrennial enthusiasm for gymnastics, which enthusiasm demands nothing more than sitting on a couch pretending to be able to suss out differences between flips, vaults, routines.
Coincidence led to my reading Maryse Meijer’s Heartbreaker and Erin Stalcup’s And Yet It Moves overlappingly, and like most coincidences this one offered an odd cross-pollination.
Say you discover in your teens that your dad was married to another woman when he met your mother (and that he lied to your mother about his marital status), and that when your parents divorce, you go with your bipolar mother, and your older sister goes with your dad. Say your dad is a somewhat/sometimes charming guy but also secretive and always short on money, and that, at some point, you realize that the cause of this charming secretive cashlessness has to do with a severe gambling addiction.
I like stories (and I mean here both short stories and novels) where dramatic events happen early, and then those events are made worse—or at least more complicated—by the inept ways characters choose to deal with them. I like to watch people continually screw things up. That’s the kind of story I like to read, and that’s the kind of story I like to write. That’s what keeps me inside.
I fell hard for Susan Perabo last year after reading her short-story collection Why They Run the Way They Do, a collection of somehow entirely domestic, and truly mysterious and strange stories.
Let’s admit at the outset that it has grown weirdly difficult to read or respond to George Saunders. Not because he’s not great, but because he’s now So Great.
Albert Mobilio’s Games and Stunts is a weirdly devastating book, one whose heft you can’t imagine on picking up the slim volume.
Certainly Grann’s work isn’t easy (if it is, Mr. Grann, please don't correct the record)...
I’m as anti-pun as the next guy, so forgive me: I was sucked in by the sea lampreys.
This is now the third time I’ve interviewed Matt Hart for a publication, which seems strange simply because, when I first witnessed him, he sorta scared me. If you’ve seen him, you know: Matt’s engaged and loud at his readings, as interested in polyphony and aural dynamics as he is in transmitting verbal info (if you write, you likely leave his readings wondering why you’re not doing the same as he does, or at least that’s how I feel).
I guess I’m curious how this book even began. There feel to be competing claims or developments—or I can imagine, I guess, different onramps (a pair of close relatives vacationing together on a cruise; a set of kids getting lost; a story of a little girl trying to make her way north). Was there some specific instance that initiated it all, that you kept coming back to?
The first Maile (pronounced, just so you’re hearing it correctly in your head from here out: my-lee) Meloy thing I remember reading was the story about the guy who does proxy marriages with his crush/friend for quick/easy cash (it was in the New Yorker in ’12 and is called “The Proxy Marriage”); it was a pretty story, and freighted, and it had a weird magnetism to it, but it didn’t upend me. The story that did that was/is her masterful “Two-step,” which is in her absolutely perfect collection Both Ways is the Only Way I Want It, and I’m better off not getting into the story and my almost rhapsodic fervency for it. It’s among the very best American short stories written in the last thirty years.
Yuri Herrera’s Kingdom Cons is an odd book to contend with, regardless of circumstance—it’s a brief, fable-ish tale one experiences almost as much cinematically as literarily.
There’s gotta be a German word for the feeling. It’s somehow total joy and a huge swell of sorrow simultaneously—the joy bigger than the sorrow but still deeply tempered. The feeling’s what you get while watching a really great film whose uplift costs significantly (the not-coincidentally German Lives of Others, for instance), and it’s the feeling I felt on finishing John McPhee’s latest, Draft No. 4.
Kevin Barry is the only author I know of (currently working) whose work equally inspires and inundates any aspirant with dread. His latest novel, Night Boat to Tangier (2019) is undoubtedly his best novel yet, and, I'd argue, his strongest fiction, periodwhich is saying something, given that Kevin Barry's one of the best short story writers alive.
Imagine being as broadly good at anything as Colson Whitehead is at writing.
Jeremy Griffin is a writer of absolute power, and I say that as someone who desperately wishes not to write that. No one is more frustrated to write about this book's excellence than I.
for an ongoing two months Ive had Charles Pierces short stories on my mind, specifically The Real Alan Gass and Videos of People Falling Down. Id like to claim theyre the best of the stories in Hall of Small Mammals, his phenomenally good debut collection out from Riverhead in January,
Scott McClanahans work is hard to encapsulate and almost impossible to ignore or fail to be swept up and in by. His writings a strange charismatic twinning of a faithful fervor and this almost loving skepticism.
That Matthew Vollmerd end up chasing stranger forms of prose was not, I dont think, clear, at least to me when I met him.
An interesting question to attempt to wrestle with regardless of the inclination of your spiritual life is, Whats the purpose of prayer? Not of specific prayers: even if were not of a religious bent, most of us understand there are certain prayers taken up for certain things (mostly filable under gratitude or assistance, largely). But no, no: Whats the point of prayerlike, daily prayer?