PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneEven as The Reactive hits some story beats that readers of a certain melancholy strain of crime fiction will find familiar, it also evades them. This is as much a book about atmosphere and states of mind as it is about the activities in which Lindanathi is enmeshed. And fundamentally, it’s not so much about the dangers that Lindanathi encounters on a daily level. Instead, it’s about answering the question of how he came to be in this position, and how his guilt has slowly spread itself across all aspects of his life. This is an affecting, slow-burning novel that gives a fantastic sense of a particular place and time, and of the haunted inner life of its protagonist.
Half an Inch of WaterPercival Everett
RaveMinneapolis Star TribuneOne of Everett’s strengths as a writer is his ability to embrace both the familiar and the strange. This is present throughout the collection: While stories of plainspoken men and women living in stark, sparsely populated towns are familiar, Everett finds new ways to enliven the setting and the characters. He knows the right places to apply pressure to the narrative and the stresses to test. Just when you think you have a particular work figured out, it tends to shift into something fresh and new — taking both the reader and the characters closer to a moment of mystery and revelation.
MartuteneRamon Saizarbitoria, Translated by Aritz Branton
RaveElectric LiteratureOn paper, this book’s plot seems easy to describe, albeit fairly static: it follows the lives of two middle-aged couples — Martin and Julia, Abaitua and Pilar — as they go about their daily lives and begin to question the bonds between them. This is somewhat accelerated by the arrival of Lynn, an American, whose life intersects with both couples in interesting ways ...the struggle for Basque independence looms in many of these characters’ histories contorts the narrative in unexpected ways ...alternates between the two couples from chapter to chapter, and doesn’t provide a lot of exposition up front, instead revealing information gradually... Action and contemplation frequently take center stage, but actions read about, imagined, or remembered also play a significant part in moving the novel’s plot forward ...Action and contemplation frequently take center stage, but actions read about, imagined, or remembered also play a significant part in moving the novel’s plot forward.
Pretentiousness: Why It MattersDan Fox
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneMuch of Pretentiousness: Why It Matters focuses on issues of class: how it’s lived, how it’s signified, how it’s discussed, how it shapes and affects the creative work that we watch, listen to and read ... in this book [Fox] has written an intellectually rigorous study of culture that echoes the scope of their work. His argument is convincing, and it may leave readers with a newfound respect for the term that gives his book its title.
Him Me Muhammad AliRanda Jarrar
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneThe fiction in this collection occupies a vast stylistic range, as Jarrar is equally comfortable telling realistic stories of families and relationships in conflict as she is in exploring more fantastical subjects. The result is a book that never succumbs to predictability; instead, Jarrar uses memorable imagery and character dynamics to examine a host of themes ... Jarrar deftly captures the conflicted emotions that can arise when trying to navigate your own identity and the expectations of loved ones ... the result is a powerful evocation of the complex dynamics at work in contemporary life.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneFinding the right balance between the author’s unquiet past and their more restrained condition nowadays can be difficult, but Mohr deftly juxtaposes multiple timelines while keeping things moving forward. And while Mohr’s experience with addiction informs the novel, there’s a lot more going on, from his complex family history to his formative experiences as a writer ... One of the standout aspects of Sirens is the way in which Mohr writes about physical damage, charting out the effects of various narcotics and blackouts on his system with the same haunting rigor that he does when discussing his health problems after becoming sober. It’s visceral in the most literal way, and it serves as a reminder for how effective this style can be when done well ... Sirens is a searing read, an illuminating trip (both metaphorical and literal) into its author’s mind and heart.
The Abominable Mr. SeabrookJoe Ollmann
RavePasteOllmann’s artwork is stylized, and, taken over the course of the book, demonstrates the ravages of time and heavy alcohol consumption on its subject ...Ollmann also makes fine use of nine-panel grids, sometimes zeroing in on the minute body language and interactions of Seabrook in a domestic context, and juxtaposes moments from his life through similarly constructed panels at a temporal distance from one another ... The graphic biography goes beyond a straightforward narrative, investigating the larger artistic and social context in which he wrote and lived, and gives a fuller sense of the literary and artistic scene in and out of which Seabrook drifted ... Before reading Ollmann’s clear-headed and empathic account, the name William Seabrook may have been foreign; by the end of it, readers will likely want to order one of his books—the mark of a comprehensive and compelling literary biography.
PositiveElectric LiteratureIt’s Moore’s Ulysses, his Dhalgren, his doorstopper engaging with grandiose themes and experimental styles. Which marks this as a mightily ambitious novel in both scope and style, but which can also lead to an occasionally uneven experience. Is it a bold work? Yes, and a singular one, for better or for worse ... I found large chunks of it to be breathtaking in their scope; I found many of the passages, especially those in its first part when characters wrestled with mortality, to be incredibly moving...But it’s also unwieldy in places.
The Red PartsMaggie Nelson
RaveThe Minneapolis Star Tribune[In The Red Parts] there are haunting meditations on mortality and motion, leading to some achingly beautiful lyrical imagery ... In the force and precision with which she tells this story, Nelson makes that case adeptly here. It’s a haunting story of the aftermath of a death, but it’s also a powerful examination of numerous aspects of life.
Everything is TeethEvie Wyld & Joe Sumner
PositivePasteThe opening, in which Wyld recounts her summers in Australia growing up, feels more like a pastoral text with illustrations—the first few pages consist of full pages of art accompanied by stark narration. Eventually, this gives way to multiple panels; a few pages after that, the first word of dialogue appears. The effect in these early pages is interesting: mostly black-and-white linework, with the addition of a contrasting shark’s fin in certain panels. It reads like a collage or an intrusion, establishing an aesthetic mode that will proceed through various permutations in the book ... As tensions within Wyld’s family increase, she tells stories of sharks to her brother; Sumner veers between photorealistic illustrations of sharks and a more stylized, cartoonish approach for rendering the family. The juxtaposition is striking ... For readers of Wyld’s earlier work, Everything Is Teeth provides a different perspective on how the natural world can turn hostile, and how anxieties and fears can pervade all aspects of perception. Sumner’s subtle use of color and multiple stylistic approaches make for an interesting visual experience, and this collaboration is enlightening in its expansive exploration of dread and time.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneThere’s a lot happening in Amateurs. At times, its density can be foreboding: The pages in which Hicks introduces the cast of characters across two parallel timelines early in the book can be slow going. It’s the sort of novel where trusting in the fact that a payoff will come is essential to reading it. And, in fact, several seemingly minor details, including one character’s obsession with his own annotations of the work of others, tend to pay off by the time the book reaches its conclusion ... The setup of Hicks’ novel is the stuff of classic comic fiction; the minute details and anxieties that surround its characters, however, are what endures.
Among Strange VictimsDaniel Saldaña París
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneWhile there’s definitely something of a plot happening in Among Strange Victims, much of the novel’s charm comes from its ability to elude convention. For all of its intentional progression in fits and starts, eventually Rodrigo’s narrative finds a decidedly peculiar direction, ending on a note that’s at once transcendent, melancholy, juvenile and mysterious. Although its stylized narrative can be an acquired taste, Among Strange Victims is deceptively affecting.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star Tribune...summary doesn’t get at the emotional tension that suffuses this novel, or the carefully modulated tensions that run between the book’s major characters ... fundamentally, this is an atmospheric glimpse into an unconventional, damaged life ... Brightfellow travels into an offbeat mind, but it’s an enlightening voyage.
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneAlthough it takes some time to establish its structure and narrative flow, the work that eventually emerges is powerful and compelling. It feels deeply relevant even when it covers events set several decades in the past ... it can be initially disorienting to see characters age and grow younger from page to page. Where this goes, ultimately, is toward a greater understanding of what motivates these characters ... This is a novel that abounds with ambition, but it largely succeeds in grappling with a host of grand themes.
A Collapse of HorsesBrian Evenson
RaveBookforumEvenson’s work appeals to students of the well-crafted sentence and aficionados of chilling horror alike. A Collapse of Horses is one of the few collections you’re likely to find that includes stories that have appeared in both Granta and the anthology Best Horror of the Year ... There are monstrous things to be found in A Collapse of Horses, but the most disturbing of all may be the disorientation that it suddenly spawns, and the lack of certainty that follows.
The Dark DarkSamantha Hunt
RaveBookforumFamilies fracturing, suburban sprawl, the ways that the sublime can be brought to earth and used to sell the most mundane of things: All of these are familiar notes for many an American writer to hit. What makes The Dark Dark so refreshing is Hunt’s willingness to work in the unapologetically weird. For some writers, the presence of the surreal might be exceedingly metaphorical or heavy-handed. Hunt celebrates unpredictability itself. At times, the dramatic shifts from realism into the bizarre recalls the likes of filmmakers like Richard Ayoade and David Lynch. As much as The Dark Dark compliments Hunt’s trio of novels, it also showcases other sides of her work, from playful metafiction to borderline body horror. It’s a welcome statement of purpose, and a reminder that certain familiar places and themes are ripe for their own fictional revival.
Broken RiverJ. Robert Lennon
PositiveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneLennon raises questions of surveillance and the possibility of anonymity — questions that the spectral being lurking on the fringes of things helps to drive home. Lennon evokes the passage of time with precision: A long passage about the house's many years of emptiness turns detachment into something moving. He's equally good with the messier emotional materials: Eleanor's creative frustrations with her writing become quite tangible, as do Karl's failings as an artist, a partner and a parent. There are moments here of chilling violence, and of nuanced comedies of manners; the result is a heady novel that distills a host of anxieties into something offbeat and hard to shake.
Fever DreamSamantha Schweblin
RaveElectric LiteratureFever Dream is a short, terse novel; it’s also as expansive as the mind itself, and terrifying in the ways in which it evokes a panicked psyche spilling out its most horrific memories, fixations, and secrets ... The title of Fever Dream serves as a constant reminder of the terrain we’re in as readers. At times, the give-and-take between Amanda and David can seem stilted, like an interrogation pushed into some realm far beyond stylization; on the other hand, that seems entirely appropriate for a fever dream. So, too, is the case with the strange twists the plot takes, which can defy logic–but, perhaps, not the logic of a fever dream ... To say that this novel perfectly evokes the experience of its title, then, is meant as the highest compliment: the delirium of the unconscious, and all the terrors it can dredge up.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star TribuneMuch of the power of Beast emerges from Kingsnorth’s juxtaposition of stylized language — sometimes rapturous, sometimes fragmented — with descriptions of a harsh landscape. This is a stark book in many senses of the word — just as Buckmaster’s narration has begun to give a sense of his inner self and his life before solitude, he enters into a primal struggle for survival. On its own, this is a taut, thrilling and mystifying narrative. Taken in tandem with The Wake, it forms a powerful meditation on violence, society and the nature of exile. Kingsnorth’s novel is relentless and philosophical, and this uneasy pairing gives it an abundance of raw power.
Afterglow (a dog memoir)Eileen Myles
RaveThe Portland Press HeraldThe universal theme of attachment shines through in Eileen Myles’ unconventional Afterglow ...is the story of Rosie, Myles’ canine companion from 1990 to 2006. It ventures into some of the places one might expect from an account of owning a dog from puppyhood until its death, including a number of moving descriptions of Rosie’s physical decline at the end of her life ... Myles’ matter-of-fact prose doesn’t make the book any less wrenching to read, nor does telling the story of Rosie’s death early in the book reduce the pain of a primally moving narrative ... Myles makes forays into the philosophical, the experimental and the absurd... Through its idiosyncrasy and specificity, Afterglow illustrates the lasting bond between humans and dogs in a new way.
Afterglow (a dog memoir)Eileen Myles
RaveThe Portland Press HeraldMyles’ matter-of-fact prose doesn’t make the book any less wrenching to read, nor does telling the story of Rosie’s death early in the book reduce the pain of a primally moving narrative ... Despite the book’s unorthodox structure, the overarching theme in Afterglow, namely how Rosie fundamentally altered Myles’ life for the better, is a familiar one in narratives of humans and animals. And for all of the ways in which Myles remembers Rosie, the book also reveals a tremendous sense of absence and loss ... With great candor, Myles uses the emotional intimacy of a human’s relationship with a dog to discuss larger questions of emotional intimacy. Early in the book, Myles recollects a reading where, 'I read a long one about dogs I wrote before I ever even had one. It was about attachment. How I wanted it. Needed it.' That could well be an epigraph for the narrative that follows: Through its idiosyncrasy and specificity, Afterglow illustrates the lasting bond between humans and dogs in a new way.
RaveThe Minneapolis Star Tribune...if Kevin Young’s Bunk had simply been a chronicle of hoaxes over the years, it would have been gripping reading in its own right. But Young goes much deeper, examining the reasons why large groups of people are drawn to certain varieties of bunk, and what that says about our society ... His work encompasses a comprehensive amount of information, and he’s equally comfortable focusing on particular figures or creative works as he is examining much broader trends ... equal parts enlightening and unnerving.