César Aira, How I Became a Nun

How I Became a Nun by César Aira My rating: 3 of 5 stars To recap, following on from my review of the brilliant An Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter, César Aira is a prolific Argentine avant-gardist who writes fiction through a method he refers to as a "flight forward": he creates … Continue reading César Aira, How I Became a Nun

Vladimir Nabokov, Despair

Despair by Vladimir Nabokov My rating: 3 of 5 stars Despair, Nabokov's seventh novel, written in Russian, dates from the mid-1930s (begun in 1932, serialized in 1934, published as a book in 1936, translated into English by the author in 1937); Nabokov revised the translation—and, as he notes in his preface, the book itself—for its … Continue reading Vladimir Nabokov, Despair

Marie NDiaye, All My Friends

All My Friends by Marie NDiaye My rating: 5 of 5 stars [With Marie NDiaye's Ladivine all the rage and some claiming that the French author is about to have a Ferrante-like breakthrough in the U.S., I thought I would post here my 2013 review of NDiaye's story collection, All My Friends; it also considers her … Continue reading Marie NDiaye, All My Friends

Philip Roth, American Pastoral

American Pastoral by Philip Roth My rating: 5 of 5 stars American Pastoral is a novel whose motto is famously the following, its narrator's exclamation just before he learns that the life he'd imagined for an old neighborhood and school acquaintance is not the life the man had actually led: The fact remains that getting people … Continue reading Philip Roth, American Pastoral

Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo, Enigma

Enigma by Peter Milligan My rating: 4 of 5 stars A cult classic, Enigma was originally published as an eight-issue miniseries in 1993 as part of the kick-off of DC's Vertigo imprint. Its writer, Peter Milligan, then best-known for Shade the Changing Man, was part of comics' British invasion following the mid-1980s breakthrough of Alan … Continue reading Peter Milligan and Duncan Fegredo, Enigma

Han Kang, The Vegetarian

The Vegetarian by Han Kang My rating: 2 of 5 stars But I fear something more insidious than traditional stupidity turns mediocrities like Knausgård into modern Prousts. I believe these encomia stem from a sense of guilt and overcompensation. A few years ago people learned with shock that Americans don't translate a lot; this served … Continue reading Han Kang, The Vegetarian

David Markson, Vanishing Point

Vanishing Point by David Markson My rating: 4 of 5 stars Well, someday I will get around to the author's masterpiece, Wittgenstein's Mistress—as well as to those other books that are listed with wry self-reference in this book: "Wittgenstein's Vienna. Wittgenstein's Nephew. Wittgenstein's Poker. Wittgenstein's Ladder." Until then, I have read this, my second of … Continue reading David Markson, Vanishing Point

Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III, The Sandman: Overture

The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman My rating: 3 of 5 stars My thoughts on the original 10-volume Sandman series can be found here. Overture, Gaiman's prequel, serialized between 2013 and 2015 and now collected in a deluxe hardcover, does not refute my thesis that Sandman narrates a contest between absolutism and pragmatism, but complicates it … Continue reading Neil Gaiman and J.H. Williams III, The Sandman: Overture

Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of Four

The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle My rating: 3 of 5 stars A few years ago, while studying the fin de siècle, I figured I should read some Sherlock Holmes, beyond whatever redacted-for-children versions I’d read when my age was in the single digits (remember Illustrated Classic Editions? I absolutely loved them—they used … Continue reading Arthur Conan Doyle, The Sign of Four

Fredric Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent

Seduction of the Innocent by Fredric Wertham My rating: 2 of 5 stars When I was younger—say in the late 1980s, early 1990s—the concept of free artistic expression was associated with the social and political left. The totalitarian states of international communism were discredited and second-wave feminism had clearly overreached in its anti-porn crusades; meanwhile, tirades … Continue reading Fredric Wertham, Seduction of the Innocent