Machado de Assis, The Alienist

The Alienist by Machado de Assis My rating: 4 of 5 stars We could learn a lot, both about life and literature, from this 1882 novella by the Brazilian writer Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis. Machado is only now becoming prominent in the Anglophone world with Liveright's publication last year of his collected short stories… Continue reading Machado de Assis, The Alienist

José Revueltas, The Hole

The Hole by José Revueltas My rating: 3 of 5 stars The Hole was written in Mexico City's Lecumberri Penitentiary in 1969 and published the same year; a classic of Latin American literature, one that Valeria Luiselli claims on the back cover has informed the works of Bolaño and Aira, the novella appears for the… Continue reading José Revueltas, The Hole

Stephen Crane, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane My rating: 4 of 5 stars A man said to the universe: "Sir, I exist!" "However," replied the universe, "The fact has not created in me A sense of obligation." —Stephen Crane The short-lived and hard-living American writer Stephen Crane exemplifies the aesthetic ambiguity of the… Continue reading Stephen Crane, Maggie: A Girl of the Streets

Sarah Orne Jewett, The Country of the Pointed Firs

The Country of the Pointed Firs by Sarah Orne Jewett My rating: 4 of 5 stars One recurring theme of my reviews is that classic literary works often defy or exceed their traditional historical categorizations. The -isms of literary history are a necessary organizing system: they help us to locate books in time and context… Continue reading Sarah Orne Jewett, The Country of the Pointed Firs

Philip Roth, Goodbye, Columbus

Goodbye, Columbus and Five Short Stories by Philip Roth My rating: 5 of 5 stars She walked away and around the oak tree. When she appeared again she'd stepped out of her shoes and held one hand on the tree, as though it were a Maypole she were circling. —Philip Roth, Goodbye, Columbus (1959) Just… Continue reading Philip Roth, Goodbye, Columbus

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

Jean Giono, Melville

Melville: A Novel by Jean Giono My rating: 4 of 5 stars Twentieth-century French novelist Jean Giono is currently being introduced (or re-introduced by NYRB Classics) to American readers, and what better introduction than Giono's bio-fantasia about Herman Melville, now translated by Paul Eprile? Melville was published in 1941 in France, and written in the… Continue reading Jean Giono, Melville

Joyce Carol Oates, First Love: A Gothic Tale

First Love: A Gothic Tale by Joyce Carol Oates My rating: 4 of 5 stars This 1996 novella makes for a curious little book. The hardcover’s title is lettered on the dust jacket in a shiny purple foil blackletter typeface, and the narrative is pointedly labelled “A Gothic Tale” on the title page. Barry Moser’s… Continue reading Joyce Carol Oates, First Love: A Gothic Tale