Contributors: Scott Esposito, Matthew Tiffany, Elizabeth Wadell, and Katie Wadell
Reviews of Blind Woman, Sleeping Willow
A Short Guide to Murakami’s Short Fiction
The Murakam Dictionary
Elegy for G.S.
Comic by Derik A. Badman
A comic in remembrance of the American great writer, Gilbert Sorrentino.
The Zak Smith Interview
Interview by Terri Saul
"In the most important or meaningful way, it’s not really a translation. I mean, you wouldn’t be able to understand Alice In Wonderland from Tenniel’s illustrations alone–it’s the same with GR. And even if you did, the best things in the book–the wonderful turns of phrase and logic–would be lost. I think it’s important to know what my medium CAN’T do so that I’m focusing my energy on the things my medium CAN do.
"Even though my drawings are as faithful to the parts of the text they illustrate as I could make them, the collected pictures are more like a personalized set of footnotes than a translation."
How Can We Read in an Age of Images?
Essay by Finn Harvor
But here’s the thing: litblogging, like literature itself, is currently caught in a death struggle with the powerful draw of the what-can-be-seen. Simply put, images pull away readers. They seduce them. We know this. There is an entire body of theoretical work devoted to the subject. But literary fiction tends to shy away from the trend of image-based culture, which not only venerates the image, but venerates the attractive image. And this is what it comes down to: the power of the image to attract. Images that really aren’t interested in the attitude or education of those who view them, because they know that in the end none of these things matter. Only desire does. Desire is the great emotion of our time.
The Emperor’s Children by Claire Messud
Review by Brien Michael
What separates The Emperor’s Children from other novels of cultural criticism and societal intrigue, Austen included, is the inclusion of this starkly malevolent force of destruction. It’s difficult to stage 9/11 creatively without being reactive, minimizing or exaggerating the destruction or the consequences that ensue. (It’s even challenging to write about someone writing about them without sounding either crass or perpetually wounded.) Messud successfully shows the shock of the event, the bitter, burnt edges of its impossible reality, but escapes the gothic horror, which, though inherent in the tragedy itself, doesn’t necessarily serve the ends of a good book. With sensitivity and tremendous skill, Messud lays bare how life continues even in the face of annihilation. Against all odds, Messud’s characters strive for intimacy, despite the familial treacheries and the perturbed, irascible City. Or simply because of them. Messud delivers a story that successfully shows the disintegration of a world from the inside out.
The Obstacles by Eloy Urroz
Review by Scott Bryan Wilson
In the first chapters, The Obstacles is laced with gorgeous apothegms and musings on the subject of love: "But it’s true . . . love can reduce you to a most imbecilic and undignified state," and "That, then, is love: a dizzying descent into the pure silt of hell." In the early chapters, there are also wonderful (and wonderfully astute) philosophical conversations on love and sex–in these moments, the novel is brilliant and very difficult to put down. But The Obstacles has a lot of trouble living up to its initial promise. At first there’s an effortless elegance, but, unfortunately, the last vestiges of that grace are found at the novel’s mid-point. By the time we get to the end of the novel, the prose and story have eroded into groan-inducing forehead-slappers.
The Secret River by Kate Grenville
Review by Barrett Hathcock
As a read The Secret River fairly rips along, and though much in the novel isn’t successfully resolved–for instance, the wife’s all-encompassing desire to return to London fizzles a little too easily when the Thornhills make good–the main story of the novel does end with a confrontation between the natives and the colonizers. But even in this scene, in what turns into a paranoid massacre by the settlers and a few hyped-up townies (a sort of Blood Meridian lite), Thornhill doesn’t cogitate enough on it for my tastes. He begins the book an interesting blank but leaves it simply blank. Where Conrad gives you the heart of darkness, that shimmering pool located within every character, here you simply get a beige blankness; there is nothing to report.
Visigoth by Gary Amdahl
Review by Theodore McDermott
What Gary Amdahl’s imperfect collection of short stories Visigoth lacks, when it lacks anything, is imagination. In these cases what Amdahl gives us is an outcry, a protest against the mere facts of humdrum lives, that is absent the imagination, complexity, and depth that he is sometimes able to achieve. This is not to say that Visigoth is bad. Nor, that Amdahl is a poor writer. It is only to say that a swagger infects and inflects Amdahl’s prose. It is a simultaneously mournful and cocky tone born of the shameful sentimentality that comes from idealizing the America that preceded the bland and easy country we now navigate in air-conditioned cars on streets with well-maintained medians.
The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo by Peter Orner
Review by Brien Michael
Peter Orner’s The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo is a collection of vignettes loosely strung together like macaroni on yarn. It takes place in a boys’ primary school in Goas, a tiny outpost in Namibia’s desert, yet the childish setting belies the narrative’s nuanced artistry; each short chapter is titled by a character, a time of day, an activity, or even Goas itself, and varies in length, tone, and voice. There is something remarkably sophisticated and polished in the finished product–sparkling like a diamond necklace rather than a child’s art project.
Tomorrow They Will Kiss by Eduardo Santiago
Review by Megan Keane
In Tomorrow They Will Kiss, Eduardo Santiago explores the inter-woven lives of six Cuban-American women by examining their relationships and their past in Cuba. Told from the perspectives of three of the six women, the narrative goes back and forth between different characters, blending the events of the past into present-day drama.
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