WRB—Oct. 15, 2022
The Managing Editors have never stood particularly athwart any one thing or other. [We hardly ever raise our voices either. —Chris]
On Monday, you’ll receive the first installment of our oft-requested, anxiously awaited, brand-new “WRB—Children’s Literature Supplement.” We hope you enjoy this new monthly feature.
To do list:
avail yourself of our world-famous classified ads, now stored on this page for non-paying readers to access, either by placing or responding to one;
In the latest National Review, Nick Ripatrazone reviews Wesley McNair’s latest collection of poems (Late Wonders, September): ‘McNair, who founded the American-studies program at Colby-Sawyer, said a “poem is a process of mulling’ and that his work mixes ‘real life with the sort of lying that leads to a deeper truth.’ He arrives at a notable number of these truths, as in ‘This Life,’ originally from his collection My Brother Running. The poem is surprisingly profound; surprising, in part, because the lines are airy in their pacing.”
For LRB, James Vincent reviews a recent book by Dylan Mulvin which asks “To whom and to what do we delegate the power to stand in for the world?” (Proxies, August).
For The Atlantic, Judith Shulevitz reviews a new novel from Nobel-winner Orhan Pamuk (Nights of Plague, October): “Paranoia is Pamuk’s great subject and the engine of his style. He forces you to read through scrims of suspicion and doubt. No fact, no backstory, is ever what it seems. ‘There is a literature of paranoia,’ Pamuk has written, adding that it’s what he writes. If his novels have the postmodern quality of resisting closure, if they frustrate what Roland Barthes called ‘the passion for meaning,’ that’s because there are plots and counterplots all the way down. He’s truly a novelist for the post-truth age.”
For Astra, Kathy Chow reviews a new novel of ideas by Ryan Lee Wong (Which Side Are You On?, October): “Reading these novels feels like being spoon-fed takes that are playing out in real time on social media. In Which Side Are You On, the dialogue is meticulously structured to cover the pros and cons of a gamut of social justice debates. When, for example, the novel raises the question of whether Peter Liang (the Chinese American cop who killed Akai Gurley) should go to prison, Reed’s mother reminds him that ‘prisons shouldn’t exist,’ to which Reed duly replies, ‘You have to work with the system you have.’ I could see this back-and-forth taking place on Twitter.”
Two in the Times:
Nathan Goldman reviews a posthumous collection of Leonard Cohen juvenilia (A Ballet of Lepers, October): “While the novel is stirring in its almost mythological simplicity, compelling in its portrait of deranged rapture, intelligently attuned to the seductions and self-delusions of false transcendence, it is also structurally clumsy, hindered by a climactic twist and mechanically staged stock characters.”
And Junot Díaz reviews a new collection of stories by comic book guy Alan Moore (Illuminations, October): “This is the story that Moore, the true prodigal son of superhero comics, was born to tell — but unfortunately, ‘What We Can Know About Thunderman,’ for all its satirical dexterity and sly impieties, is too cryptic, too diffuse to land any killer blows. There’s a lot of inside baseball about the superhero biz that will delight nerds like me (and fly over the heads of the uninitiated) but I wish Moore had imbued the work with more compelling characters; I wish he had taken more seriously the industry’s racial and gender inequities, which he adumbrates but never really explores, a failing that threatens to reproduce the very cruelties he condemns.”
“It’s the anti-Laurus. It’s Gilead but by the Marquis de Sade. It’s Harmony Korinne in King Arthur’s court. It’s like if you trained an AI on Candide, but it never learned humor. It’s the junior novelization of a lost Cormac McCarthy. It’s a bedtime story by Ivan Karamazov. It’s Flannery O’Connor with the voice of George R.R. Martin, the theology of Pinkie Brown, and the sexual confidence of Pinkie Brown. It’s a failure, a barely interesting one—but I’ll try to explain.” Charlie Clark on Lapvona (June) for Fare Forward.
There’s an island for sale in the St. Mary’s River.
October 18 | Random House
Liberation Day: Stories
by George Saunders
From the publisher: The “best short-story writer in English” (Time) is back with a masterful collection that explores ideas of power, ethics, and justice and cuts to the very heart of what it means to live in community with our fellow humans. With his trademark prose—wickedly funny, unsentimental, and exquisitely tuned—Saunders continues to challenge and surprise: Here is a collection of prismatic, resonant stories that encompass joy and despair, oppression and revolution, bizarre fantasy and brutal reality.
“Love Letter” is a tender missive from grandfather to grandson, in the midst of a dystopian political situation in the (not too distant, all too believable) future, that reminds us of our obligations to our ideals, ourselves, and one another. “Ghoul” is set in a Hell-themed section of an underground amusement park in Colorado and follows the exploits of a lonely, morally complex character named Brian, who comes to question everything he takes for granted about his reality. In “Mother’s Day,” two women who loved the same man come to an existential reckoning in the middle of a hailstorm. In “Elliott Spencer,” our eighty-nine-year-old protagonist finds himself brainwashed, his memory “scraped”—a victim of a scheme in which poor, vulnerable people are reprogrammed and deployed as political protesters. And “My House”—in a mere seven pages—comes to terms with the haunting nature of unfulfilled dreams and the inevitability of decay.
Together, these nine subversive, profound, and essential stories coalesce into a case for viewing the world with the same generosity and clear-eyed attention Saunders does, even in the most absurd of circumstances.
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