Category: Reviews

Review: What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours

What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, by Helen Oyeyemi Review by Kaley Jemison   Helen Oyeyemi’s latest book, What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours, is a collection of short stories that ranges from magical realism to the ultramodern. Her stories center on themes of identity, love, and sexuality. They are connected through images of keys both literal and figurative:…

Review: Do Not Become Alarmed

Do Not Become Alarmed by Maile Meloy Review by Whitney Gilchrist A rare abstract sentence in Maile Meloy’s new novel Do Not Become Alarmed offers a way of understanding the story itself: “One aspect of human resilience, in all its marvelousness, was the ability to recalibrate, to adjust to new circumstances with astonishing speed.” The story embeds this reflection on “recalibrat[ion]”…

Review: Contradictions in the Design

Contradictions in the Design by Matthew Olzmann Review by Ray Barker The thirty-seven poems in Matthew Olzmann’s recent collection, Contradictions in the Design, strive to find meaning and value in personal experiences as viewed through a historical lens. With an endless reserve of curiosity, Olzmann surveys a range of places and objects, questioning their significance as clues to deeper truths. Museums figure…

Review: The Return

The Return by Hisham Matar Review by Feroz Rather During the days of popular revolt against Gaddafi’s authoritarian regime, Hisham Matar—the 47-year-old Libyan writer who has made London his home—calls an old man living in Zliten. “I watched them from my window,” the old man tells him. “They came with bulldozers and dug up the graves, one after the other.…

Review: A Gentleman in Moscow

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles Review by Megan Tilley Elegantly crafted and dazzlingly clever, Amor Towles’s novel A Gentleman in Moscow transcends the often gloomy descriptions of Soviet-era Russia to create a world both insulated from the outside world and endlessly influenced by it. While many novels set in tumultuous 1920s Moscow spend considerable time on the metropolis…

Review: The Ghost of Birds

The Ghost of Birds by Eliot Weinberger Review by Daniel LoPilato Half a dozen stories from the Arabian Nights open with an enigmatic, perhaps untranslatable metaphor. In “The Tale of the Enchanted King,” the first sentence describes a story “which, if it could be engraved with needles at the corner of the eye, would be a lesson to those who would…

Review: Lincoln in the Bardo

Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders Review by Theodore Yurevitch I didn’t know what a bardo was before reading George Saunders’s new novel Lincoln in the Bardo, and I can’t say I was sure afterward, either. I knew Saunders’s work, though, as many do; he’s the author of several acclaimed collections of short stories, novellas, and essays. Not long ago, one of…

Review: Driving Without a License

Driving Without a License by Janine Joseph Review by Josh Brewer One has come to expect quality from Alice James Books. The venerable New England cooperative continues to publish the best new female voices while expanding their catalogue in recent years to include men and even more international poets. That expectation of quality has been met and exceeded with Janine Joseph’s Driving without…

Review: You Should Pity Us Instead

You Should Pity Us Instead by Amy Gustine Review by Karen Tucker “Most serious and productive artists,” writes Joyce Carol Oates, “are ‘haunted’ by their material—this is the galvanizing force of their creativity, their motivation. It is not and cannot be a fully conscious or volitional ‘haunting’—it is something that seems to happen to us, as if from without, no matter what craft…

Review: Mrs. Engels

Mrs. Engels by Gavin McCrea Review by Sean Towey Close your eyes and imagine Karl Marx. Can you see him? That giant head covered in curly hair, that jolly girth? Good. Now bring to mind his partner in ideology Friedrich Engels. A little bit harder to do, right? Is it Freud with more hair? Or maybe Nietzsche but less Mark…