A Haunted House Like No Other: A Review of Josh Malerman’s “A House at the Bottom of a Lake”

Malerman cover

One of the reasons speculative fiction fans are always excited when a new Josh Malerman book is published is that he seems to reinvent himself with every new narrative. Malerman, best know from his bestselling novel Bird Box, explores genre limitations with every book, and A House at the Bottom of a Lake is no different. This could be called a coming-of-age narrative or a submerged haunted house novel, but those would only point so certain things Malerman brings to the table while leaving a lot out.

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The Precise Art of the Essay: A Review of Joan Didion’s “Let Me Tell You What I Mean”

Joan Didion cover

Any discussion about the giants of contemporary American letters must include Joan Didion. In Let Me Tell You What I Mean, a new collection of twelve nonfiction pieces ranging from 1968 to 2000 and gathered together for the first time, Didion tackles the press, art, her college years, writing, and her own self-doubt, which has been constant throughout her career and is to blame for the small number of short stories she has written. Witty, heartfelt, and insightful, the writing in Let Me Tell You What I Mean is always incisive and shows Didion as a perennial chronicler and keen observer obsessed with the present, the palpable, the real.

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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. 

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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. 

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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. 

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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

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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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