A Very Massachusetts Apocalypse: On Paul Tremblay’s “Survivor Song”

"Survivor Song" cover

Paul Tremblay’s Survivor Song is a prescient novel that is being published at the perfect time. In fact, it so timely that I almost feel like every reviewer should remind readers that writing a novel, editing it, sending it to an agent, selling it, and then editing it again is a long process, so when they read this and think “Wow, this is ridiculously prophetic!” they need to remember that Tremblay wrote it way before the current pandemic. 

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A Storied Writer’s Take on a Storied Magazine: César Aira’s “Artforum” Reviewed

"Artforum" cover

César Aira’s Artforum is a love letter to the homonymous magazine in which the author explores and exposes his obsessive relationship to the publication and his travails to find copies of it in the wild in Argentina. However, it’s much more than that. Aira is a master of language known for infusing his narratives with as much philosophy as humor, and he does that here in a brilliant series of short essays/stories/journal entries that chronicle his travails to find the magazine.

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One Writer Ponders Race in America: A Review of “Self-Portrait in Black and White”

"Self-Portrait" cover

Thomas Chatterton Williams always knew there was something off about the simplistic race classifications he was forced to deal with since childhood. The son of a light-skinned black man and a white woman, Williams understood he was different, that he inhabited an interstitial space between the rigid racial categorizations society imposed on him. For years he performed intellectual work to break away from those impositions. However, holding his newborn daughter, a pale baby with blazing blue eyes, triggered a need to finally come up with a solution. Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race is the result of Williams’s quest for answers. 

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When Feline Life Turns Horrifying: Bohumil Hrabal’s “All My Cats” Reviewed

"All My Cats" cover

Bohumil Hrabal’s All My Cats is a bomb wrapped in gift paper. The cute kitties on the cover, the innocuous title, and the synopsis, which mentions the book is about the writer tending to “a community of cats,” all contribute to making the book seem harmless. It’s not. Instead, the narrative is a brutal chronicle of a man’s descent into madness because of his cats. Bloody, violent, and dealing with themes like fear, suicidal thoughts, and mental illness, All My Cats is a wild, explosive read that should contain a warning: many cats were harmed in the making of this book. 

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Where Tranquility Meets Terror: A Review of Matthieu Simard’s Unsetting New Novel “The Country Will Bring Us No Peace”

Matthieu Simard book cover

Literature that makes me uncomfortable holds a special place in my heart. This year I’ve been lucky enough to read two books that have dug their way underneath my skin and stuck with me like angry chiggers hellbent on never letting go. The first book was Rachel Eve Moulton’s Tinfoil Butterfly. The second was my most recent read, Matthieu Simard’s The Country Will Bring Us No Peace. A bleak, strangely poetic narrative full of mystery that explores the darkest corners of human emotion, The Country Will Bring Us No Peace is an outstanding novel with a depressive atmosphere that sticks to your ribs and refuses to let go.

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The Complexities of One Man’s Life, With Added Dog: A Review of Mary Miller’s “Biloxi”

Biloxi cover

When it comes to finding ugliness, unexpected beauty, and weirdness in everyday life, no author does it quite like Mary Miller. Her understated, straightforward prose is a treasure trove of illuminating morsels that strip away pretense and reflect humanity in all its glorious range: unpleasantness, pettiness, aching, love, hope, heartbreak, longing, lust, depression, humor, and confusion abound. At once a novel and a sociological treatise of loneliness and heartbreak, Biloxi, Miller’s latest novel, is a hybrid narrative that’s part novel, part love letter to human darkness, and part ethnographical observation of an old man and his dog. Oh, and it’s all strangely beautiful and engrossing. 

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Coming of Age Amidst Sinister Experiments: A Review of Josh Malerman’s “Inspection”

Josh Malerman’s novel Inspection works on two levels. On the surface, it tells the story of two groups: one made up of boys and one made up of girls, who are both part of an experiment. With elements of science fiction, a subtext of mental games, and heavy doses of tension, the narrative partly behaves like a psychological thriller. However, there is much more at work under the surface. Inspection engages with complex themes: characters’ struggles to deny their instincts, the possibility of altering life’s regular progression in order to maximize intellectual development, and the effect of storytelling on human thoughts. When those elements take over, the novel fluctuates between a creepy science fiction adventure, a bloody coming-of-age story, and a horror novel. Malerman, a literary chameleon whose previous novels include the post-apocalyptic-novel-turned-cultural-phenomenon Birdbox, the bizarre and dreamlike Western Unbury Carol, and the strange and haunting Black Mad Wheel, offers here his best effort yet and cements himself as one of the most versatile voices in contemporary dark literature. 

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Where Landscape and Horror Converge: A Review of Ilaria Tuti’s “Flowers Over the Inferno”

Ilaria Tuti’s Flowers Over the Inferno is an action-packed thriller with a unique serial killer and a multilayered, deep, and incredibly entertaining main character battling at its core. Set in a quiet village surrounded by ancient woods under the shadow of the Italian Alps, this novel also possesses a superb sense of place and an atmosphere that places it head and shoulders above most of its contemporaries.

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