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Fiction: Brooding On Hope

Secret Son, the debut novel by Moroccan author Laila Lalami, is a cautionary tale: the message is not be careful what you hope for, but rather, beware of hope itself. An exciting new talent, Lalami has been busy lately. Her short story collection, Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, was published in 2005 to critical acclaim, and her essays are featured in two other books being published this spring, including Gods and Soldiers: The Penguin Anthology of Contemporary African Writing. Meanwhile, Secret Son succeeds in the best of conventional ways. With its graceful prose, its movie-worthy plot, and its convincing, complex characters, this novel offers all of the traditional pleasures of a well-told story.

Fiction: The Double Helix of Violence

In 2005 we saw the Paris suburbs lit afire by frustrated young people. Do such events start from little nothings, or are they explosions of major contradictions?

Fiction: They Mean Well

Despite the promise of its title, insensitive bastards do not reign in Robert Boswell’s latest collection of stories.

Poetry: The King Lives. Long Live The King!

It has been thirty-two years since Elvis Presley died at age 42, a bloated victim of prescription pills and Nutter Butters, and over fifty when a thinner Elvis burst onto the American scene, singing and twitching his way into the hearts of millions.

Poetry: Opening Up

In a letter I received from Denis Mair, primary translator of the new bilingual anthology Current Chinese Poetry, edited by Yang Siping, he notes that “10 or 15 years ago a large state press like Shanghai Literature Press would not have gone near these poets. Things are opening up. But…the in-house censor chopped out a few of my favorites.”

Nonfiction: Darkness At The Edge Of Town

Most writings about drugs or drug cultures are as puerile as their subject matter—sensationalistic or moralizing, effusive in condemnation but offering no solutions, limited in scope and—dare I say?—substance. Whether a casebook study of addiction, a memoir regaling in past pharmaceutical misbehavior, or grassroots or governmentally-mandated literature, treatments of the topic rarely address the range of problems,


John Wray (Canaan’s Tongue) delivers another fast-paced novel which takes us through the New York City subway system, tracking a schizophrenic sixteen-year-old boy who, like many of the city’s paranoid residents, believes he has been made privy to information about a pending apocalypse.

Rapid Transit

"Speak Low” is a pitch perfect title for Carl Phillips’ twelfth book, at once equaniminous and unsettling, personal and universal. Here is a poet who listens to “the silences…of intimacy…risks…the dead” and can tell us what silence says and how it sounds.


The Brooklyn Rail

JUNE 2009

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