Best of All Possible Worsts: A Review of Jeff Schneider’s “Therapists Gone Wild”

Therapists Gone Wild

There is nothing particularly wild about Jonathan Epstein, the main character in Jeff Schneider’s new book, Therapists Gone Wild. He’s hardly protagonist material: a sheepish, soft-spined  licensed clinical social worker with the best intentions who probably has one of those daily motivational quotes calendars on his desk and loves it. This is what makes his gradual descent into madness both painful to watch, and impossible to look away from.

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John Brandon’s Trip to the Past: A Review of “Ivory Shoals”

"Ivory Shoals"

Early in John Brandon’s fourth novel, Ivory Shoals—a spirited remaking of the prodigal-son parable set in the American South during the final days of the Civil War—twelve-year-old Gussie Dwyer has come to collect the savings his recently deceased mother, Lavina, entrusted with her long-time employer, Rye. Rye delays this encounter, leaving the boy to wait awkwardly in the barroom, a foreign space reserved for hardened men and the working women looking to entertain them. Out of economic desperation, Lavina had turned to prostitution to support her family.

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An Actual Person in a Concrete Interview Situation: Talking Books With Blake Middleton

"Actual Person" cover

I am an actual person in a concrete historical situation. So are you, and that guy? Over there? Yep. Same. Look at us. Just some actual people in a concrete historical situation. Seems obvious, but, really, I mean, is it? When’s the last time you thought about being an actual person in a concrete historical situation? Actual stuff – life stuff – situated in some broader context. Your birth and death and the stuff in between. That’s all it is, and you’re doing it. Thanks for spending some of it reading this introduction with me. Let me tell you something.

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Subways, Songs, and Shattered Families: On Martha Cooley’s Novel “Buy Me Love”

"Buy Me Love" cover

Martha Cooley’s title for her latest novel is a predicate. A main verb and direct object, to be precise, its three words at once call to mind the subject and more, at least for the many millions with a fondness for the Beatles. The missing words “Money Can’t” function like a ghost limb for Buy Me Love and I mean for the entire narrative: haunted and hurting, yet also playful and illuminating. <

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Vulgar Translation: “The Trojan Women” by Anne Carson and Rosanna Bruno

"Trojan Women"

Literary translation is a forcefully delusional act. The assumption upon which it rests—that one language can be even approximately mapped onto another—belies the profound complexity and mysticism of all human communication. Works of translation are praised (or critiqued) on the extent to which they preserve the spirit of the original. What a silly metric: language itself is the spirit. A finished translation is never a puzzle solved, but an adaptation imagined—a work of creativity that births a new spirit all its own.

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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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A Flight of Three Fine Hungarian Sours: László Krasznahorkai’s “The Last Wolf & Herman”

Novellas

The Hungarian writer László Krasznahorkai is a trickster, a jester entertaining an unhappy court, his sentences elongated to the point of absurdity, and absurdity is very much the man’s point. In The Last Wolf & Herman, published in English by New Directions Press in 2017 (the translators are George Szirtes and John Batki), the first tale is a long story/short novella, The Last Wolf (published in Hungary in 2009). It unfurls over a single sentence covering seventy pages and conjures thoughts of one of Krasznahorkai’s heroes, the Austrian master Thomas Bernhard. The philosophizing in The Last Wolf recalls not just the tar-black humor of Bernhard but also a more ebullient and insuppressible Thomas Mann. Krasznahorkai is a joker but not a quipster or aphorist.

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