In Valeria Luiselli’s first novel Faces In The Crowd, a promiscuous, melancholy mother loses herself so thoroughly while translating the work of a Mexican poet named Gilberto Owen that her narration slowly becomes that of the equally promiscuous, swashbuckling poet. In Luiselli’s funny new picaresque The Story of My Teeth, Gustavo “Highway” Sánchez Sánchez picks up where Owen left off. He too is a charismatic raconteur whose first-person narration simultaneously charms and cuckolds. Highway not-so-humbly describes himself as “the best auctioneer in the world.”
Read the rest of the review at [PANK] Magazine.
France’s literary bad boy Michel Houellebecq is stirring controversy again. If you feel that literature has become too genteel, too much like Hollywood in its pursuit of blockbusters that eliminate all local flavor from prose, then you’ll be thirsty for Houellebecq’s very funny and provocative new novel Submission. The book has drawn mostly negative attention from the European media for its portrayal of a Muslim takeover of secular France in the near future. The book is critical both of the modern manifestation of Islam (especially its treatment of women) and of the political, theological, and cultural decline of Europe.
François, Houellebecq’s narrator, is the embodiment of France’s decline.
Read the rest of the review at The Rumpus.
Halle Butler’s Jillian is one of the funniest books I’ve read in a long time. I should think of a way to articulate that more elegantly and contribute to the annals of literary criticism. But I’ve been trying to do as Megan, Jillian’s early-twenties protagonist would do, and she would probably say: what the fuck is the fucking point?
Read on at The Rumpus Books.
T. Geronimo Johnson’s first novel Hold It Til It Hurts is one of the best books I’ve read recently. It’s a visceral, somber tale of two brothers returning from military service in Afghanistan only to find more Afghanistans in their family secrets and the bombed-out ghettos of Atlanta and New Orleans. The prose is disciplined and precise, and by the time the climax swirled in the eye of Hurricane Katrina, there was no doubt in my mind that Hold It Til It Hurts is the definitive novel of the African-American male experience during the Bush years. I’ll be thinking about sentences like this one for a long time:
There were the morbidly inquisitive, people who thought they could comprehend, secondhand, if they could understand how often the dead appear to be grinning, or that if you stare too long a dead friend looks more and more like a stranger, while a dead stranger looks increasingly like a long-lost friend.
Unfortunately, Johnson’s follow-up Welcome to Braggsville is the shaggy, far less accomplished younger brother of his first book, a coming-of-age tragi-farce that never finds cohesion between the genres it tries to blend. Simultaneously undercooked and overstuffed, the purported Southern-fried comedy fails to clear its lowest hurdle: it’s just not funny enough.
Read more at The Rumpus
Studies have shown that reading literary fiction increases a reader’s ability to empathize. In her first books to be published in the U.S., Giller Prize-nominated British author Kathy Page puts that theory to a rigorous test. Would you like to spend 300 pages in the mind of a murderer? How about fourteen stories replete with the vengeful whispers from those vanquished by the injustices of globalization? In both the novel Alphabet and the story collection Paradise and Elsewhere, Page demonstrates that she is a master provocateur, unafraid to ask unpleasant questions about contemporary society, even if she risks being didactic.
Read the rest of the review here.