One of the most distinctive collections of verse published in the United States this year features the poems of a Danish cognitive scientist in translation. This is not a condemnation of the current state of American poetry, which is as rich and varied as it’s ever been, but an uninflated testament to the highly original work of Per Aage Brandt. Up to this point, Brandt has been largely unknown to readers of English-language poetry.
Set in 1986 Southern California, Alan Drew’s Shadow Man follows the story of Detective Ben Wade, whose search for a serial killer brings to light his own troubled upbringing. Drew’s novel provides a new take on thrillers, with more of a focus on characters and place. In this way, Drew turns the classic detective novel into a work of literary fiction.
Paging through Daša Drndić’s Belladonna, you can’t miss the lists of the dead. Twice during the later going, the text interrupts itself for page after page of names, in smaller-font double-columns. Names of the murdered, to be sure: victims of the Holocaust.
Where the Dead Sit Talking is narrated by a weird kid—kind of innocent, kind of ignorant—named Sequoyah. The story unfolds during Sequoyah’s stint as a foster child during his mom’s period in lockup.
In December, I met Hermione Hoby to discuss her debut novel at Milk and Roses, a book-lined Greenpoint café that is the sort of place aspiring artists and intellectuals move to New York with dreams of finding and that usually does not last much longer than does a blazing revelation. (Though let us hope the gods of real estate spare Milk and Roses.)
The best writers endure regardless of when or why their work is written. Unerringly honing in on the core of our human condition, these writers’ instincts lead them toward this unshakeable truth again and again, regardless of their subject-matter. Were there not already enough evidence that László Krasznahorkai is such a writer, his latest book in translation, his 2013 prose collection The World Goes On, proves it.
In Our Lady of the Prairie, Thisbe Nissen’s rambunctious and roving new novel (her third), Nissen weaves several disparate narratives into what she calls a “crazy quilt” of a novel—emphasis on “crazy.
“I saw within myself,” admits our narrator, “a kind of ignorance that grew deeper the more I looked at it.” Sounds about right for his novel, too: the more deeply Vengeance draws us in—really, it’s hard to look away—the greater its ambiguity.
Paul Goldberg’s excellent first novel, The Yid, invented an assassination plot against Joseph Stalin in late February of 1953, to stop a genocide that Stalin may have been planning against the Soviet Jews who had not been murdered by Hitler.