Jayinee Basu, The City of Folding Faces

The City of Folding Faces by Jayinee Basu My rating: 4 of 5 stars A phenomenology of contemporary reading: Oscar Wilde said that only shallow people do not judge by appearances. In the library I plucked a strange little book from the "new" shelf. It's glossy, white, and almost hand-sized. It has a strange bluish, … Continue reading Jayinee Basu, The City of Folding Faces

Jason Lutes, Berlin

Berlin by Jason Lutes My rating: 3 of 5 stars For readers and writers of contemporary fiction, history can play the role that myth once did. Just as Sophocles's audience relished the dramatic irony created by their foreknowledge of Oedipus's fate, we can read about the everyday lives of Berliners in the Weimar Republic with … Continue reading Jason Lutes, Berlin

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

Grant Morrison and Chris Weston, The Filth

The Filth by Grant Morrison My rating: 4 of 5 stars The book is full of life—not like a man, but like an ant-heap. —Ludwig Wittgenstein, Culture and Value (trans. Peter Winch) Wittgenstein was a bit of a Tolstoyesque puritan in matters literary—Shakespeare was too wild and dream-like for him—so I imagine he did not … Continue reading Grant Morrison and Chris Weston, The Filth

A Note on Blade Runner 2049

A good, thought-provoking short essay by Christian Lorentzen. I disagree with his interpretation of Blade Runner 2049, though, which he sees as schmaltzy and simplistic. I certainly had problems with it—too slow; too lugubrious; too much spectacle and not enough story; at times while watching it I worried that "2049" might designate not the year … Continue reading A Note on Blade Runner 2049

Eugene Lim, Dear Cyborgs

Dear Cyborgs by Eugene Lim My rating: 4 of 5 stars The novel, unfortunately, waits until we have gotten the point before it decides to explain itself:   (When I say cyborgs, of course I mean us.) […] (Some seem unaccepting of this transformation, and it indeed has been gradual. In a sense it began … Continue reading Eugene Lim, Dear Cyborgs

J. M. Coetzee, The Schooldays of Jesus

The Schooldays of Jesus by J.M. Coetzee My rating: 4 of 5 stars This sequel to Coetzee's The Childhood of Jesus (2013) provides further adventures of Davíd, Simón, and Inés in an ambiguous dream-like setting. The first novel tells of characters who arrive from over the sea to a mysterious socialist society called Novilla; Simón, … Continue reading J. M. Coetzee, The Schooldays of Jesus

Valeria Luiselli, Faces in the Crowd

Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli My rating: 3 of 5 stars The honest critic must be content to find a VERY LITTLE contemporary work worth serious attention; but he must also be ready to RECOGNIZE that little, and to demote work of the past when a new work surpasses it. —Ezra Pound, ABC … Continue reading Valeria Luiselli, Faces in the Crowd