fiction

Reif Larsen’s ‘I Am Radar': Art and Race in 2015’s First Big, Messy Novel

Am Radar begins in darkness: the title character, Radar Radmanovic, is born to his mother Charlene during a hospital blackout. Charlene’s husband, Kermin Radmanovic, is tinkering with a transceiver radio in the delivery room, waiting to “announce his child’s arrival to the world.” But when the lights come on the doctor is holding on to her newborn child, a baby “so dark it shimmered purple in the beam of light, like an eggplant.” … Read More

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Life ‘After Birth': On Elisa Albert’s Groundbreaking New Novel

With her new novel, After Birth, Elisa Albert has already demonstrated a genius for concision. At under two-hundred pages, the book is fiercely brief, a breathless psychodramatic tour that begs to be re-read immediately. This is to say nothing of its perfectly clipped sentences — lines hijacked from a generation of men who seem not to know how to use them — that privilege clarity, precision, and rhythm above all else. And then the paragraphs: I’m convinced that Albert is among to the two or three best paragraph writers we have, mostly because, in their pithiness, they never sacrifice momentum. … Read More

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Literature as Religion: Alejandro Zambra’s ‘My Documents’

A few weeks ago, I changed a setting on my notation app. It now allows me to save all of my notes to a journal file, a long scroll of text that records each stray thought I enter into any device. This master file, I’ve been thinking lately, has become the document of my life, my soul, if you will. It’s a shitty version of a soul to have, but, along with what I write here and elsewhere, it’s also the best approximation of my self. And at least I can track and change it voluntarily.

“My father was a computer, my mother a typewriter,” Alejandro Zambra writes in My Documents, “I was a blank page, and now I am a book.” … Read More

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The Cat That Therefore I Am: On Robert Repino’s ‘Mort(e)’

Written in the third creature, Mort(e) by Robert Repino is an interspecies war novel that hews closely to the actions and thoughts of a cat named Mort(e). First known as Sebastian, Mort(e) is inspired to change his name after a singularity-event brought about by a race of intelligent ants. … Read More

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Dread Country: Colin Winnette’s ‘Coyote’

This week I reached into a pile of January galleys and removed a hideous green object called Coyote. It’s written by Colin Winnette, an author I’ve never heard of, for Les Figues Press, a publisher I’m not overly familiar with. It was selected for the 2013 NOS Book Contest, a prize I don’t know, by Aimee Bender, a writer who I’ve been meaning to read.

Poised somewhere between a long short story and a novella, Coyote selects a handful of clichés from the rural imaginary — missing children, trashy talk shows, crime procedural, domestic violence, etc. — and overcooks them in the deranged mind of its protagonist. This is a good thing. In order to write about rural America, writers must deal with its viciously circular self-image: the rural imagination is mediated by its own minstrelization on television and in cinema. It has absorbed a representation of itself that it never authored in the first place. … Read More

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The Forgotten Modernist: ‘The Country Road’ by Regina Ullmann

The forgotten Swiss poet and writer Regina Ullmann, whose story collection The Country Road has just been published by New Directions, was born in St. Gallen, Switzerland in 1884. She was “a dreamy, slow, difficult child” — according to one of only a few biographical entries in English — born to a comfortable family of Jewish origin. When her father died, Ullmann and her mother relocated to Munich, where she came to know a circle of avant-garde poets and thinkers, including Thomas Mann, who claimed her authorial voice to be “something holy,” and Rainer Maria Rilke, whose literary sponsorship helped keep her afloat in dark times. … Read More

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The First OK Novel: On Miranda July’s ‘The First Bad Man’

Miranda July — the visual artist, performance artist, auteur, writer of short fiction, and now, novelist — is by every indication compulsively interdisciplinary, but not unselfconsciously so. Recently in The New York Times, she praised the story collection Man vs. Nature by Diane Cook, adding, “I don’t usually say this, every single story could make a great movie. (Not that I condone adaptations or think it is necessary.)” Earlier this week, in an interview with NPR about her debut novel, The First Bad Man, July referred to the “delicate processes of making the book.” Making, not writing, as if the novel were a film or an art object. … Read More

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Bienvenido Okey-Panky, New Home for Short, Weird Lit

Today marks the launch of Electric Literature’s Okey-Panky, an online magazine of “short, darkly comic, ironic, and experimental fiction, essay,… Read More

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2014: The Death of the Postmodern Novel and the Rise of Autofiction

The postmodern novel is dead. It is no longer what William James would call a living hypothesis: no committed literary novelist would now choose to write a postmodern fiction. Sure, genre and YA novelists may continue to churn out commodified, page-turning, loosely Victorian versions of the postmodern novel, but the robust fictional project of Pynchon, DeLillo, Coover, and even David Foster Wallace no longer holds sway over literary writing. In 2014, instead, many of the best novels were autofictions that vigorously reasserted the self. … Read More

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