Nick Drnaso, Sabrina

Sabrina by Nick Drnaso My rating: 2 of 5 stars Around the time this acclaimed graphic novel was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, I read it and wrote a somewhat glib, very short review. The review briefly restated my distaste for the artistic tradition within comics to which Drnaso adheres—not because I think this… Continue reading Nick Drnaso, Sabrina

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

Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

What We Talk About When We Talk About Love: Stories by Raymond Carver My rating: 4 of 5 stars A character in this iconic collection's final story thinks of her daughter's truancy as "another tragedy in a long line of low-rent tragedies." This 1981 book, which perhaps more than any other made its author's name… Continue reading Raymond Carver, What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

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

Tracy K. Smith, Life on Mars

Life on Mars by Tracy K. Smith My rating: 4 of 5 stars This celebrated 2011 volume from the current U.S. poet laureate is her elegy for her father, a scientist who worked on the Hubble telescope. Your context changes how you read any given book, and I was reading this in the context of… Continue reading Tracy K. Smith, Life on Mars

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

George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders My rating: 4 of 5 stars In one of the few negative reviews of George Saunders's well-received and Man Booker-winning first novel, Caleb Crain complains that it is not a novel at all ("this is anti-novelistic") and that it exhibits "sentimental sadism." True and true, but, my own… Continue reading George Saunders, Lincoln in the Bardo

Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates My rating: 4 of 5 stars It is a poor period indeed which must assess its men of letters in terms of their opposition to their society. Opposition to life’s essential conditions perhaps, or to death’s implacable tyranny, is something else again, and universal; but novels, no… Continue reading Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me

Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro My rating: 5 of 5 stars Never Let Me Go is a contemporary realist novel about a friendship and eventual love triangle among three former students of an exclusive boarding school; the novel traces the effects of their childhood and adolescence on their adult experiences as they re-enter… Continue reading Kazuo Ishiguro, Never Let Me Go