Sarah Thankam Mathew’s All This Could be Different has been marketed, and widely reviewed, as a novel in which electric prose serves a calling higher than the merely aesthetic. The prose here is au courant, fluent in the meme-inflected argot of the relatively young extremely online reader, and exemplary of the transparent, personality-effacing style of writers coming out of MFA programs.
The titular protagonist of Meiselman: The Lean Years has at the age of thirty-six had an epiphany: he’s been a pushover ever since he can remember, and he doesn’t want to be the good guy who finishes last. He is neither a hero nor a celebrity, neither likeable nor engaging though he tries valiantly to rise to each description. Alas, yeast is wanting.
Blake Bailey's Philip Roth biography has something for everyone: it satisfies the reader who wants to relive the rapture of reading Roth at his best, the literary dilettante who wants to bone up on dinner table banter about notable priapic penpushers, and aspiring heirs to Roth’s ballpoint sceptre.
Novices and accomplished writers alike seem to agree that writing is hard. One would be a fool, then, to pass up on hard won insights from an author of twenty…
In "Crossroads" Jonathan Franzen flaunts his complete abandonment of any pretence to style; substance and form have fought each other, and substance stands undefeated, gloating, on the corpse of form.
For her meteoric rise to be a satisfying story the rags-to-riches-heroine needs to start from a position of complete destitution. Put her in a middle class home with its usual opportunities, joys, disappointments, and brushes with tragedy, and then even her rise to the presidency of the United States is immediately less interesting. This story arc can only be rescued from narrative indifference if she’s a colourful personality, someone perpetrating incredible hijinks, always getting into capers which strain our moral muscles but from which we come away with her stronger rather than broken. None of this true of the story of Indra K. Nooyi’s life; it has neither a rags to riches trajectory nor the emotional heft of a tale worth the telling. It is fitting that this stylized ledger of Nooyis deeds, personal and professional, is delivered in a monotone, grocery list, register. The troughs and peaks are equally unremarkable in the treatment they receive, and the ending is clear right at the start. Indra Nooyi was born, she worked hard, and with a little luck she succeeded.
Shortlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize, A Passage North is concerned with the experience of war removed from violence on the ground and consumed second-hand through news and videos on the internet.