“There are people who talk about themselves in the first person, people who talk about themselves in the third person, and people who don’t talk about themselves at all,” says a character in A Meaning for Wife. Yet poet Mark Yakich’s debut novel is narrated–quite successfully–in the controversial second-person.
A finalist for the National Book Award, Julie Otsuka’s innovative novel The Buddha in the Attic pushes the bounds of narrative form with a collective narrator and a resistance to fixed fates. By inviting the reader to consider what could have happened, instead of what did, Otsuka makes her complicit in the fate of the story’s mail-order-brides.
Preeta Samarasan finds South African novelist Marlene van Niekerk’s Agaat to be transformative. The story of an Afrikaner woman and the black servant who has worked for her for most of both their lives, Agaat examines relationships of race and power between the two women by employing a stunning combination of structural intricacy, stylistic range, and daring allegory.
Reading Deanna Fei’s debut novel, A Thread of Sky, rescued Kate Levin from a giant post-MFA funk. In this conversation with Levin, Fei discusses the role cultural identity plays in a writer’s persona and work, the value of unknowability, the secret to writing great sex scenes, the reason she watches Jersey Shoreand more.
In this review of Antonya Nelson’s fourth novel, Bound, Jackie Retizes examines the role of serial killers as literary signifiers, how Nelson navigates multiple points of view, and why the author succeeds (when many less expert writers don’t) in favoring ambiguity over conclusions, “offering delicate moments of attachment in a book that is less about permanence than it is about restoration.”
Robin Oliveira’s debut novel, My Name is Mary Sutter, tells the story of a woman hell-bent on becoming a surgeon at a time when no woman in this county had been admitted to medical school—during the Civil War. The novel’s richly described world both helps us imagine the setting and leads reviewer Helen Mallon to this question: How can research best represent a world in historical fiction?
Philipp Meyer sets his debut novel, American Rust, within a landscape of retired warehouses, rattling railways, prisons and Wal-Mart. The crumbling underpinnings of American industry provide the backdrop for human catastrophe. Meyer made The New Yorker‘s “20 Under 40” list on the strength of a book in which Hanna Pylväinen finds echoes of Mark Twain, Frank O’Hara and Cormac McCarthy.
Each week we give away several free copies of a featured novel or story collection as part of our Book-of-the-Week program. Last week we featured Elegies for the Brokenhearted, by Christie Hodgen, and we’re pleased to announce the winners: Brooks Rexroat, Kierstyn Lamour, and Kate Hill Cantrill. Congratulations! Each will receive a copy of this new novel. This week we’re featuring Damon Galgut’s novel In a Strange Room. Though this title came out in the U.K. from Atlantic Books last year, it’s only recently been released in the States, published here by EuropaEditions. In September the book was shortlisted for […]
There are no zombies or vampires in Brad Watson’s new collection, Aliens in the Prime of Their Lives (W.W. Norton, 2010), but there are plenty of folks who act like they’re either dead or from another planet. And, yes, many of Watson’s characters are “aliens”—not green creatures with large heads, but alienated, isolated. They are people who wander through life without an anchor, who don’t feel the pull of gravity.
In a generation of “Pointers,” the relationship between and among songs on an album—its narrative—is all but lost in favor of hit single after single. But in Jennifer Egan’s new book, A Visit from the Goon Squad, an array of stories mix into a cohesive novel, each chapter self-contained yet fluid as the grooves of an LP.