October 2, 2011 |
It's early on a brisk morning in September, and Russell Banks is standing in front of the Marriott Hotel Brooklyn Bridge, smoking his first cigarette of the day. In a few hours, he'll be onstage at the Brooklyn Book Festival, across Adams Street in Borough Hall Plaza, but at the moment he's a little tired - the result of a late night with his friend, novelist Paul Auster, a longtime Brooklynite. Still, at 71, Banks looks fit, hair and beard white and close-cropped, eyes sharp behind a pair of frameless glasses that sit like windows on his face.
December 15, 2011 |
Life is just a long string of memories. Even our present is being pushed each second into the past. Peter Orner uses that fact to engaging effect in his new novel, "Love and Shame and Love. " The book tells the story of a young man named Alexander Popper and his family strictly through anamnesis' ethereal prism. Each chapter is a solitary memory, dusted off and glowing with latent emotional residue. It's a nontraditional storytelling device that results in a book of brief chapters, sometimes no more than a paragraph, each of which could easily stand on its own. The story jumps back and forth - like memory itself - between early family history and fairly recent recollections.
March 22, 2013 |
On a piano keyboard, which mimics the human vocal range, the middle C is the C closest to the center. That's Joseph Skizzen - the protagonist of William H. Gass' long-awaited follow-up to his 1995 masterpiece "The Tunnel" - a middle-of-the-road yet slightly off-center academic who wants nothing but "the chance of an unnoticed life. " But it just might be a stand-in for the author. If Gass' body of work were a keyboard, you'd have his debut novel, "Omensetter's Luck" on one end and of "The Tunnel" at the other.
October 19, 2012 |
Back to Blood A Novel Tom Wolfe Little, Brown: 704 pp., $30 About a quarter of the way through Tom Wolfe's new novel, "Back to Blood," pornography addiction specialist Dr. Norman Lewis waits with his nurse (and mistress) Magdelena Otero to be interviewed by a "60 Minutes" crew. Norman is delirious at the prospect of his star turn - so much so that he becomes a bit, er, overstimulated. "' Now - while they're at the door!' " he grunts at Magdalena, who responds, " 'No, Norman!
September 19, 2013 |
When Stephen King published his third novel, "The Shining," in 1977, he was a writer with a lot on his mind. Initially, he told The Times in 1998, he conceived of the book as "a Shakespearean tragedy, a kind of inside-out 'King Lear,' where Lear is this young guy who has a son instead of daughters. " He even went so far as to divide the first draft into acts and scenes. Make of this what you will, but it suggests that King has always had more at stake than merely to frighten us, that he wants to get at the big themes: love, loss, loyalty, what happens between parents and their kids.
April 4, 2014 |
Meyer Lansky is one of the gravitational centers of Zachary Lazar's new novel, "I Pity the Poor Immigrant" (Little, Brown and Company: 256 pp., $25). Not so much the dapper, "Boardwalk Empire"-era gangster as Lansky in 1972 in Israel, seeking to retire there under the country's Law of Return. It's hardly the most celebrated era in Lansky's life, but Lazar was going for something other than the obvious. "The initial idea of this book was to put Meyer Lansky in the same room as King David from the Bible," Lazar said via Skype from his home office in New Orleans.
June 20, 2013 |
Tao Lin's new novel, "Taipei," is more obviously autobiographical than previous efforts - about a young, male, Asian American New York urbanite and social-media compulsive paralyzed by a robot-ennui style of depression. Lin has energetically cultivated a reputation as a shameless self-promoter and boutique literary writer whom hipsters and Internet art-lit culturists call "controversial" and love to hate; comparisons to Bret Easton Ellis abound, and rightly, since Lin writes in part about a privileged, dissipated youth drug subculture and aims for an amoral, affectless voice designed to shock.
September 5, 2013 |
I don't read J.M. Coetzee for pleasure. To be fair, I'm not sure anyone does. The 2003 Nobel laureate writes from his head more than his heart, framing novels that are philosophical and austere, books that break down the world in highly rational ways. Over the course of his career, he's been compared to Beckett and Kafka, although despite the occasional nod in their direction - the title character of his 1983 novel "The Life and Times of Michael K. " functions to some extent as an homage to "The Trial's" Josef K. - he lacks their appreciation of humor, of life as essentially absurd.
June 6, 2013 |
When it comes to Stephen King, I'm partial to the smaller efforts: novellas, short novels, experiments, the quieter, more interior stuff. It's not that I don't like his big books - especially "The Shining," which remains the scariest thing I've ever read, and the 1996 novel "Desperation," an overarching consideration of sin and sacrifice and redemption, set in a Nevada mining town. Still, what makes King resonate for me is the detail work, the way he can get inside the most mundane situation and animate it, revealing in the process something of how we live.
February 21, 2013 |
Janice Steinberg's latest creation isn't technically her creation at all. Rather, the protagonist in her new novel, "The Tin Horse" (Random House: 352 pp., $26 hardcover), is the fully formed version of a marginal character plucked from Raymond Chandler's "The Big Sleep," a figure Steinberg had been preoccupied with for a while. An unnamed young woman who appears for a few brief pages in Chapter 5 of Chandler's famous noir - she's in a bookstore, reading a law book, when the detective Philip Marlowe wanders in and asks her about one of the other stores on the street.