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

Gerald Murnane, The Plains

The Plains by Gerald Murnane My rating: 3 of 5 stars Gerald Murnane is in vogue. Every few years, it seems, a new writer or handful of writers is coronated in the book reviews, little magazines, and literary coteries of the English-speaking world as a monarch of world literature. So far this century, we've had W. … Continue reading Gerald Murnane, The Plains

Q, Conspiracy, and the Novel; or, Why Portraits and Ashes Should Be Your Summer Read

Readers who perceive an esoteric subtext to my writing and who therefore keep a paranoiac tally of my cryptic allusions will recall that I have mentioned the "Q" or "Qanon" conspiracy theory twice. Both references occurred in the context of paranoiac fictions: Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 and Grant Morrison's The Invisibles. But … Continue reading Q, Conspiracy, and the Novel; or, Why Portraits and Ashes Should Be Your Summer Read

Gore Vidal, The City and the Pillar

The City and the Pillar by Gore Vidal My rating: 3 of 5 stars A little over a decade and a half ago, Gore Vidal was one of the most urgent voices on the American left: challenging empire in the era of neoconservatism, challenging religion at the height of evangelical power, he seemed to speak … Continue reading Gore Vidal, The City and the Pillar

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

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

Jack Kerouac, On the Road

On the Road by Jack Kerouac My rating: 3 of 5 stars You will say, "You should have read this book when you were sixteen!" Reader, I wouldn't have liked it. My spell with the counterculture was tantalizing but brief, consisting mainly of Grant Morrison comics and a small short-lived occult shop on Pittsburgh's South … Continue reading Jack Kerouac, On the Road

Bernard Malamud, The Assistant

The Assistant by Bernard Malamud My rating: 5 of 5 stars The Assistant (1957) is Bernard Malamud's second novel. Frank Alpine, its eponymous anti-hero, becomes a clerk in the failing Brooklyn grocery store of Morris Bober after Bober is robbed and assaulted. The Italian-American orphan and drifter Alpine slowly intricates himself into the ways and … Continue reading Bernard Malamud, The Assistant

My Year in Books, 2017

But let's start with movies. Ten years ago, the Scottish musician and critic Momus observed that one of the most acclaimed films of 2007, Guillermo del Toro's Spanish-Civil-War fantasy Pan's Labyrinth, was morally and politically simplistic and (or because) artistically complacent. He gave ten objections to the film; I will quote the first two: 1. The … Continue reading My Year in Books, 2017

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