Reading in Tongues: Peter Stamm’s Seven Years

Note: “Reading in Tongues” is a very occasional feature on the experience of reading in a foreign language.
The longlist for the Best Translated Book Award was announced today, and I was pleased to see Seven Years by Peter Stamm—which I’d just read at a sloth-like crawl in the German—among the contenders.  I’d been curious about [...]

Meta in Madrid: Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station

I came to Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station via the bandwagon.  I first learned of the novel from James Wood’s New Yorker review, which left me intrigued: a novel about the uncertainty of language, expat angst, and the appropriation of history in the quest for an authentic self?  I may not be a poet [...]

Performance Art in Prose: Kirsten Kaschock’s Sleight

My latest piece for the Barnes & Noble Review is on one of the stranger novels I’ve read this year: Kirsten Kaschock’s Sleight. A more positive review than mine also ran this week, in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  It’s a polarizing enough book that I recommend reading both.
In her novel Sleight, Kirsten Kaschock has set herself a [...] real gambling systems

Of Dating and Derrida: Jeffrey Eugenides’s Marriage Plot

Fall has arrived, the season of weighty novels. Much like Freedom did this time last year The Marriage Plot, by Jeffrey Eugenides, has launched our annual referendum on The Novel in the 21st Century.  As Evan Hughes noted in a moving piece on their generation of writers, Eugenides and Franzen are both working in the gaping [...]

Amitav Ghosh Goes Up In Smoke

I have a review of River of Smoke, the second volume in Amitav Ghosh’s Ibis trilogy, up at the Barnes & Noble Review.  I’ve liked Ghosh in the past, and the first volume—once I got past its faux-historical vernacular—made for a spirited summer read.  The new installment, not so much.
The second book of a trilogy [...]

The Next-Big-Thingism: Téa Obreht’s Tiger’s Wife

Am I turning into a curmudgeon?  I’m 0/2 on the most celebrated debut novels of the new decade. I recently finished Téa Obreht’s debut novel The Tiger’s Wife, and I’m having trouble understanding the fuss.  (It’s possible I was a curmudgeon already: upon hearing me complain about skateboarders on the sidewalk at the age of twelve, [...]

The Saddest Symphony: Teju Cole’s Open City

I got excited about Teju Cole’s debut novel Open City as soon as I read Publishers Weekly’s ecstatic starred review: a young psychiatrist “wanders Manhattan, pondering everything from Goya and the novels of J.M. Coetzee to the bankruptcy of Tower Records”? Yes please. Coetzee is one of my favorite novelists, Goya’s portrait of Manuel Osorio Manrique [...] popular gambling games

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The James of the Jews: Cynthia Ozick’s Foreign Bodies

When I sat down to read Foreign Bodies, the new Cynthia Ozick novel that purports to be a “photographic negative” of Henry James’s The Ambassadors, I had two assumptions: 1) that I would like it less than The Ambassadors and 2) that the novel would lend itself to a fun game of who’s who.  The first [...]

Freedom’s Dark Double: David Grossman’s To the End of the Land

David Grossman’s To the End of the Land has the improbable distinction of being the second novel in as many months to make me cry.  (I should qualify this by saying that I rarely weep over anything so serious as novels; I usually reserve my tears for sitcoms.)  The other was Freedom. These twin totems [...]

Ishiguro at the Movies

I’m not sure why I was so determined to see Never Let Me Go given that reviews have uniformly noted its failure to live up to the excellent Kazuo Ishiguro novel on which it is based.  (Ebert: “A good movie from a masterful novel.”  Denby:  “This adaptation of the much loved 2005 Kazuo Ishiguro novel [...]

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