Cormac McCarthy, Cities of the Plain

Cities of the Plain by Cormac McCarthy My rating: 3 of 5 stars Cities of the Plain began life as a screenplay, and it shows. For most of its length, it is bare description and dialogue. While its scene-setting is often concisely vivid and its cowboy conversations laconically witty, it lacks either the lived-in quality… Continue reading Cormac McCarthy, Cities of the Plain

Octavia E. Butler, Kindred

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler My rating: 5 of 5 stars This 1979 classic novel of time travel and slavery could not be published today. Imagine it, imagine Octavia Butler temporally jumped to the present and trying to put out Kindred in the current media climate. Assume, because it's so good, that the novel even finds… Continue reading Octavia E. Butler, Kindred

Anna Burns, Milkman

Milkman by Anna Burns My rating: 5 of 5 stars "I did not like twentieth century books because I did not like the twentieth century," says the narrator of Anna Burns's Milkman, the 2018 winner of the Man Booker prize. In one of the novel's many knowing ironies, the joke is that she inhabits what… Continue reading Anna Burns, Milkman

Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation

Dept. of Speculation by Jenny Offill My rating: 3 of 5 stars This acclaimed 2014 novel of marriage, motherhood, and adultery is a perfect expression of the fictional and even critical style of our time. Five years ago, in homage to James Wood's famous censure of the late 20th century's "hysterical realism," I called this… Continue reading Jenny Offill, Dept. of Speculation

Lisa Halliday, Asymmetry

Asymmetry by Lisa Halliday My rating: 3 of 5 stars The jacket copy of this fascinating 2018 debut novel—back cover and both flaps—informs us no less than four times that Lisa Halliday was a recipient of the Whiting Award. This award goes to 10 promising writers each year, and is granted by a jury that… Continue reading Lisa Halliday, Asymmetry

Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing

The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy My rating: 3 of 5 stars The Crossing (1994) is the follow-up to All the Pretty Horses (1992) and the second part of Cormac McCarthy's Border Trilogy, three novels focused on young American men coming of age in the early-to-mid-20th century on the border with Mexico. Unlike its popular precursor,… Continue reading Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing

Louise Erdrich, The Plague of Doves

The Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich My rating: 4 of 5 stars The Plague of Doves was acclaimed by many as Louise Erdrich's masterpiece when it was published a decade ago. It is easy to see the appeal: the novel is a collage of voices narrating a set of big scenes, from the eponymous… Continue reading Louise Erdrich, The Plague of Doves

Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy My rating: 4 of 5 stars All the Pretty Horses is apparently to Cormac McCarthy's corpus what The Crying of Lot 49 is to Thomas Pynchon's or The Ghost Writer to Philip Roth's: it is the appealing vestibule to an oeuvre of appalling heights and depths, a prolegomenon to any… Continue reading Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

Don DeLillo, White Noise

White Noise: Text and Criticism by Don DeLillo My rating: 5 of 5 stars I am interested in the question of whether or not this book holds up. It was long judged exemplary of a cultural epoch: the postmodern novel par excellence, or at least an excellent postmodern novel that undergraduates could reasonably be expected… Continue reading Don DeLillo, White Noise

Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon My rating: 5 of 5 stars A summary of this classic 1965 short novel's unsummarizable plot: California housewife Oedipa Maas becomes executor ("or she supposed executrix") of the will of her late lover, real-estate magnate Pierce Inverarity. She travels from her domestic normality in Kinneret-among-Pines to a… Continue reading Thomas Pynchon, The Crying of Lot 49