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5 Book Reviews You Should Read This Week ‹ Literary Hub

5 Book Reviews You Should Read This Week ‹ Literary Hub

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This week’s basket of gorgeous reviews features Taff Brodesser-Akner’s Emma Alpern Long Island CompromiseDwight Garner, Joy Williams About the Future of SoulsZain Khalid Percival Everett JacobEd Vulliamy by Sebastian Junger In My Time of Deathand Boris Fishman, Aleksandr Skorobogatov Russian Gothic.

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“The frenzy, the judgmental stare, and the intermittent bursts of sincerity you find in her profiles are all here. There are also many of the hallmarks of her prose style (lists separated by ‘ands’ instead of commas, for example, and exclamation points sprinkled liberally). All this familiar energy should keep the story and the reader moving, but at times the novel exhausts itself. It can seem like a machine that won’t shut down even after it starts smoking… The bitter siblings can be very funny… but there’s a predetermined quality to their personalities that makes them feel less than human. There’s not much free will in Brodesser-Akner’s world… The more time you spend with each character, the more dreamy they seem, even as a sense of romantic sympathy rises. Brodesser-Akner’s magpie style, mixed with angst-ridden dialogue, voicemails, and scenes from cellphone games, has a sing-songy charm, but it can be hard to sustain such a taut voice for nearly 500 pages…

Somewhat famous Tablet In a 2015 essay titled “I Probably Won’t Share This Essay on Twitter,” Brodesser-Akner argued against the idea of ​​Jewish privilege in light of the 2014 Gaza war. In a way, it’s a book-length meditation on this argument, passed down from character to character. The Long Island Compromise, When Nathan mentions the Holocaust, an anti-Semitic co-worker rolls her eyes; Jenny does the same when her grandmother mentions it. Ah, the old idea: the naive young Jew who takes the side of the oppressor. To the book’s credit, it doesn’t quite fit that stereotype, leading to a flawed conclusion that gives the older generation its own demons. It’s ultimately unsatisfying, but it mostly works – its own kind of compromise.”

–Emma Alpern, Taff Brodesser-Akner Long Island Compromise (Vulture)

“Profanity? In Williams’s fiction, almost everything he values ​​is a) too important to be taken entirely seriously and b) fair game for biting but often playful abuse. Abuse is proof of his love. Don DeLillo said it this way: Underworldand I feel it intensely in my own life: the highest value that can be passed between some friends is ‘the upright contempt that bears their affection.’… Williams, who turns 80 this year, resembles Mark Twain in the ferocity of his literary contempt. One of the best things about Twain’s nonfiction is the way he stops everything and gives a bird or plant hell, giving it an absolute beating just because it’s in front of him… Williams writes with more feeling than any writer I know—or at least, with more feeling than any writer whose preciousness doesn’t make me want to put my lunch back in my shirt pocket—but like Twain, he knows that there are more strange people in the natural world than Audubon could name…

This is almost a book of poetry… Williams brings a wealth of knowledge about philosophy, aesthetics, metaphysics, and morality into his short stories… Beneath the loneliness and silky comedy of these stories, there is an almost silent sense of the oceans acidifying, the loss of species, and the musky fall of space debris from the cosmos. Why write a meditation on the Grim Reaper? Perhaps, as Williams suggests, it is because so many souls are suddenly trying to leave their bodies prematurely, because the omens are so dire. Suicide: It is a sin. Still PUREE “The theme of the book seems to disappear from the spine at some moments.”

–Dwight Garner, Joy Williams About the Future of Souls (New York Times)

“Publishing is often like a dating agency, with writers, editors and agents trying to fit aesthetic, moral and political material to their demands. Close your eyes and imagine a warehouse full of gray-brown sofas. Everett rejected the ready-made, too busy building gardens of heavy metal and deserts of phosphorous, doing everything he could to avoid artistic stagnation. Unfortunately, in his last novel, JacobThe author’s ego has overtaken his curiosity, perhaps because this is his first novel that is clear, distinguishable and aimed at a specific audience…

Everett’s novel is an attempt to give Jim a different voice, to re-enact him according to Everett’s own understanding. He throws out Jim’s reality, replaces the thoughts and hopes behind Jim’s eyelids with his own, restricts them as he sees fit. Formally, Everett abandons his trademark discursive polyphony for aphorisms… The book reads like a monologue delivered to what the actor knows will be a sympathetic audience in the end. Similarly, the dialogue is too self-aware and uninterested in what Jacques Rancière argued is the artist’s responsibility, which is to reveal ‘the unseen, what lies beneath the visible’. Jacobthe artist’s responsibility is rehabilitative, so many passages serve to correct an imaginary notebook… too perfect for an adaptation, it was almost certainly written with that possibility in mind. We hope that Everett the writer has not replaced the tyranny of his own mind with the tyrannies of the dark gallery, the movie theater.”

–Zain Khalid Percival Everett Jacob (Book Forum)

“Many admirers of Junger’s beautiful and famous writings may think that this lucid testimony and meditation on the afterlife indicates that he is out of his mind. Or perhaps he hallucinated and found a beautifully written piece of nonsense… Well, let it be. It is an impressive, compact, philosophically ambitious, theological and scientific meditation of raw honesty, and a necessary effort at a time when atheistic materialism is approaching hegemony among intellectuals in Western society… Junger’s meditations intertwine the spiritual with the physics that has become metaphysical, where his ancestors denied the soul or spirit. The first and last chapters of the book are a wonderful tour of the ‘vastness’ to which we come and to which we return, in the family and world of Einstein, Heisenberg, Bohr, and others. But along the way, Junger takes us on a journey of questioning that has no answers; by definition, this is the only story that fact-checkers cannot verify…

By sharing his story and his thoughts so honestly, Junger becomes a literary Charon, on this side of the River Styx but looking across. When you close the book after reading it a second time, you look out the window at whatever it is — a gray, drab cityscape — and realize its strange value, that we are all subject to chance and the whims of nature, our lives determined (and strangely enriched) by death, Junger writes, “on its terms” rather than ours.

–Ed Vulliamy by Sebastian Junger In My Time of Death: How I Came Face to Face with the Idea of ​​an Afterlife (Guard)

“The Soviet-Afghan war only comes up once Russian GothicBelarusian-born Aleksandr Skorobogatov’s slim novel, first published in 1991 and newly available in translation in the United States, is a single, radioactive reference that transforms the story’s experience from a private affliction to a commentary on a nation. (The novel’s new English title has been swelled from the plainer Russian title, Sergeant Bertrand(It seems to invite expansion.) The effect is both a gift and a curse: Russia’s troubled history heightens the novel’s resonance, but the country’s literary lineage makes for a difficult comparison… Skorobogatov imagines Nikolai’s madness as a kind of psychic call and response, elegantly disguising whether the events echo in real life or in Nikolai’s tortured mind… Such literary patterning and ambiguity can feel familiarly clever. But what is infernal about this novel is that these moments recall so many times over the last century when Russians were forced to see what wasn’t there and not see what was.”

–Boris Fishman, Aleksandr Skorobogatov Russian Gothic (New York Times Book Review)