The Sacred and the Surreal: On Maryse Meijer’s “The Seventh Mansion”

"The Seventh Mansion" cover

Maryse Meijer’s The Seventh Mansion is the type of book that shouldn’t work, but somehow does. In fact, I’d call it one of the most bizarre, brilliant books I’ve read this year, and that’s saying a lot.  This strange tale smashes together the holy and the earthly, the dirty and the sublime, the supernatural and the all-too real, all while exploring what it means to be human in a world that moves farther away from itself, from its roots, every day. 

Continue Reading

A Haunting, Layered Thriller: A Review of David Heska Wanbli Weiden’s “Winter Counts”

"Winter Counts"

Writing an entertaining novel is no easy task. Writing a novel that contains enough pulp to be entertaining but also has rhyzomatic tendrils that reach deep into the realm of cultural significance, history, and justice is even harder. David Heska Wanbli Weiden’s Winter Counts does exactly that. At once a violent, touching story about the effects of the opioid pandemic in a Native American reservation and a celebration of the strength and resilience of the Sicangu Lakota Nation, Winter Counts is book that demands to be read not just because it’s engaging, but because it matters. 

Continue Reading

Haunted People in a Shifting Landscape: A Review of David Joy’s “When These Mountains Burn”

David Joy cover

Imagine a tree in an old growth forest. The core is ancient. Its roots have been in the earth for centuries, drawing substance from it while helping shape the ecosystem around it and even becoming an ecosystem itself. However, at the tip of its branches burgeons new life, infant shoots that are new to the world. This tree is just like David Joy’s latest novel, When These Mountains Burn; something both old and new that embodies change and permanence while also reminding us that things we imagine monolithic, like places and cultures, are malleable, changing, ephemeral. 

Continue Reading

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. 

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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. 

Continue Reading

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. 

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading