The two most remarkable things about Dan Sinykin's history of how corporate conglomeration in publishing has changed the course of literature are 1) it's never been written before and 2) there was a time, not so long ago, when the merging and acquisition of publishing houses was unthinkable. Sinykin teaches how to read "through a colophon," and that "our outsize attention to the author alone is a trick of history." Bestellers are engineered. Book buyers for chains and indies alike are key to a book's success. Sinykin's fascinating history is underlineable on every page.
A striking debut novel equal parts art history and narrative, Activities of Daily Living juxtaposes the protagonist's study of performance artist Tehching Hsieh and her father's cognitive decline. This is a riveting work of fiction scrutinizing the possibility of art/meaning versus the inevitable slow squeeze of time and how one simply cannot exist without the other.
Nestled within the nucleus of motherhood literature comes Linea Nigra, written in aphorism and anecdote that intersect over and over again in beautiful orbits. Barrera writes about childbirth, breastfeeding, and care through her mother’s artwork and her grandmother’s experience as a doula, as well as the author’s own extensive reading notes and frustrations with healthcare. Barrera’s seriousness and intelligence is punctuated by expressions of delight in parenthood.
I’ll be a mess if I can find a better novel this year than Gospodinov’s Time Shelter. Gaustine, a geriatric ward clinician, opens a clinic for Alzheimer’s patients that reproduces decades of the past in perfect detail. The treatment is wildly effective, and within the comfort of past eras, patients inhabit their former selves. Angela Rodel somehow manages an encyclopedia’s worth of obscure cultural references from across the globe, rending them with clarity and beauty. Gospodinov is a keen observer of both the melancholy of time’s passing and the slippery joy of nostalgia.
Something about the deadpan confidence of Haber's work has the power to convince me that imaginary paintings are real, conjured writers have walked the Earth, and the sky is purple and filled with green clouds. We're all gullible neophytes before Mark Haber's breathless novels. Saint Sebastian's Abyss is one of the first of its kind by an American writer, a sleek novel about Renaissance art, rivalry between friends and devotees, and the meaning of the obsessions that orbit our careers. There's not a single sentence in this book that isn't ecstatic.
I'm hard-pressed to find something similar to Carl de Souza anywhere in American fiction—his haunted stylings, his wanderings, his dense depictions of violence that feel both immediate and unreal.
It's incredible what the Germans can do—disgust you, isolate you, toss you—the reader—to the curb and expect devotion in return. (Unfortunately, it works.) Wolfgang Hilbig's The Interim is the revered German writer's most complete and erudite of his works translated into English. Isabel Fargo Cole doesn't miss a beat of Hilbig's humor and disorientation. The Interim reads like literature crawling out of the drain; the novel's narrator, known only as C., is both loveable and inescapable in his singular history of two Germany's: East and West. As C. has it: "Literature that refused to serve the purpose of distraction was punished by being passed over on the market. . . the best distraction was what sold the best." The Interim is the opposite of such distraction; it also happens to be a damn good book.
I am a horror reader with a wary interest in true crime. Hauntings and hellspawn are my bread and butter, but real life atrocities keep me up at night. This is a tactful victim-focused true crime book that doesn't linger on the lascivious details. Weinman's thesis is that the 1948 kidnapping case of 11-year-old Sally Horner serves as direct inspiration for Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel 'Lolita', a notion that Nabokov himself protested. For this reader, Weinman builds a strong case and exposes the dirty bones of what some consider Nabokov's masterpiece.