TQC Favorites of 2012: Madeleine LaRue

Madeleine LaRue reviewed Maidenhair by Mikhail Shishkin in the Winter 2013 issue of The Quarterly Conversaiton.

The bleak, poetic universe of László Krasznahorkai’s Satantango absorbed me completely. I am continually in awe of the sense of urgency in Krasznahorkai’s books, and of the harsh beauty of his unstoppable sentences.

I was also hugely impressed with Mikhail Shishkin’s Maidenhair. Such an ambitious tangle of stories might easily have become unwieldy or simply irritating in the hands of a less masterful storyteller, but Shishkin proves himself a worthy heir to the best of his Russian predecessors.

Ivan Vladislavić’s The Loss Library and Other Unfinished Stories is not only a gorgeous physical object, but also a charming meditation on writing and not-writing. I came to Vladislavić via A Labour of Moles, his marvelous contribution to the Cahiers Series, and found the same imagination, good humor, and preoccupation with the dictionary in these new stories.

Robert Walser’s Berlin Stories provided hours of delight: Walser’s joy in life in the city is contagious, and his insight into modern life disarming. I was won over by his whimsy and also by the melancholy intelligence behind it.

Finally, though it is not the author’s most recent work, I must mention Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red because it was so unexpected and so wonderful. Identified as “a novel in verse,” the book imagines the life of Geryon, a red winged monster from Greek mythology, falling in love with his killer Herakles against a backdrop of active volcanoes.


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