Kathleen Spivack’s Unspeakable Things has everything a great novel, let alone debut novel, should have. There’s irreverent passion, unexpected ways of shocking, a healthy libido (in this case the two are connected), light touches of magical realism, and poeticism.
Life isn’t always a linear path though, and there is a strong though subtle meta-fictional aspect to this story that reminds us we are always working towards a broader meaning making than a single story might provide. It’s here that the themes re-emerge, along with questions about genetic inheritance, about how we make and remake ourselves, how meaning is created, and the role of language and love in all of its forms. The Last Thread is about all of those threads and more.
John Biscello is clearly an immensely gifted writer who has attempted something in Raking the Dust that will certainly win it admirers. I admire much of it myself, yet I find I cannot warm to it. The trade-off between life and literature often involves some strenuous negotiations, the outcomes of which are not always what we would wish. Raking the Dust describes an extreme case, and our appreciation of the novel will depend on our responses to Alex and his problems.
Characters are well developed, many are despicable and familiar, taking their cue from so-called experts that rant in the public view on television. This fast paced work is filled with good writing, presented in highly readable prose.
Britta Bohler has written a wonderful novel, an immersive and psychologically convincing account of Mann’s agony of decision. Smoothly translated by Jeannette K. Ringold, it is well researched and chock-full of sharp insights into one of the great writers of the twentieth century.
If you’re looking for a point of comparison, I’d say Bunin as a writer is similar to Chekhov, that’s his model. Though he is darker, more risqué and also narrower in his sympathies. There are some people, you feel, that Bunin is just not interested in – something you never feel with Chekhov. There are some people, you feel, that Bunin is just not interested in – something you never feel with Chekhov. Bunin is a little old-fashioned or out of touch too, you sense. Set in his ways. You read a story written in the ‘40s – and so contemporaneous with Hemingway, Waugh and Greene – and the people are behaving like turn of the century Russian nobility.
The vitriol of I hate the internet is the misery of the bourgeoisie, almost all of which “lack eumelanin in the basale strata of their epidermis” (as Kobek repeatedly describes whiteness); I sympathize regardless of my eumelaninlessness. More than being a prolonged expletive flailing absurdly about like a verbal Bernie Dance though, this self-described “bad novel” is a madcap, mad-dog, remonstration of Post-Industrial America.
The Last Wife of Atilla the Hun manages the perfect balance between the epic setting from which it takes its cue, and the intimate and domestic world that Gudrun finds herself in. Gudrun is cut off from the battlefield from which she only hears news, and unlike Sigrid, doesn’t go on a quest for dragon’s gold.
For all its seriousness, The Snail’s Castle has a light, assured tone that makes for compulsive reading. At turns amusing and disturbing, it is among the most literary of literary works, with a deep intelligence that expects its readers also to be intelligent. That is a rare compliment that should be savoured.
The unique writing style and sympathetic characters found in Swing State create an intriguing read. Fournier draws potent scenes depicting their struggles – returning from war, finding acceptance and approval, and asserting their own independence. Although each character has a unique story to tell, Fournier deftly interweaves and connects their lives until they come together in the explosive conclusion.