Reviews

This is for an in-depth review of a book, this is not to be confused with the staff recommendations page.

The Spinning Heart (Donal Ryan)

This book is easily my most anticipated release of the new year. A deceptively slender novel, THE SPINNING HEART provides an engrossing depiction of rural life in contemporary Ireland during the nation’s recent economic bust. In one small town, as money and jobs dry up, long-buried resentments re-emerge and threaten to erupt in violence. Each of the twenty-one chapters of this novel is narrated by one of the town’s residents, which brings the individual characters to life while allowing their differing perspectives to provide the details of a larger story in which they all play a part. Reminiscent of Faulkner while remaining accessible, dramatic and deeply moving, this is a book you won’t want to miss. -Keaton

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$16.00
ISBN: 9781586422240
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Steerforth Press - February 25th, 2014

Redeployment (Phil Klay)

This profound story collection by debut author and Marine veteran Klay provides a panoramic view of what it means to be an American soldier, both on and off the battlefield. Each story portrays a different aspect of military life, revealing that there is no one true wartime experience. Artillerymen consider the enemies they kill but never see; Mortuary Affairs officials collect the myriad dead; young soldiers attempt to lose their virginity before deployment; returning warriors struggle to readjust to civilian life. Klay’s prose is straightforward, unflinching and psychologically intense. He’s a star on the rise, and REDEPLOYMENT is a timely and important book.

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Redeployment Cover Image
$26.95
ISBN: 9781594204999
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Penguin Press - March 4th, 2014

Revolutionary (Alex Myers)

How much of your identity do you take for granted? Your mannerisms, your habits, when you choose to speak and when you're silent? Do you ever think about how many of those may be tied to your gender? Alex Myers's powerful debut novel REVOLUTIONARY asks those questions and more by telling the true story of Deborah Samson, a woman who disguises herself as a man and joins the Continental Army in the last years of the Revolutionary War. Life as a man provides Deborah, a former indentured servant, with her very first taste of freedom, and her male identity, Robert Shurtliff, quickly becomes the only one she wants to inhabit. Myers masterfully weaves Deborah's struggle of self into the fabric of the narrative; when she is Deborah, the book uses female pronouns for her thoughts and actions, and when he is Robert he/him/his is used instead. Fear of discovery is a constant presence in the novel, and the minute details of Deborah's gendered disguise provide a few intensely personal moments, such as her reflections on binding her chest or her new awareness of the ways in which she has been socialized to be quieter and less aggressive as a woman.

Deborah's search for belonging takes place against the exquisitely drawn backdrop of colonial New England. Myers's novel is extraordinarily well-researched, giving us a window into the ways in which perceptions of gender have--and haven't--changed since our country's founding. Deborah's later-in-life fight for recognition as a veteran echoes our modern struggle for gender equality, a struggle that Myers fought on the front lines as the first openly transgender student at Harvard, who successfully worked to add gender identity to Harvard's nondiscrimination clause.

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$26.00
ISBN: 9781451663327
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Simon & Schuster - January 14th, 2014

Severina (Rodrigo Rey Rosa)

This brilliant, cosmopolitan novel tells the story of a bookseller who falls in love with a woman he catches shoplifting in his store. When the bookseller confronts Severina about the theft a relationship begins, but questions remain: Where is the woman from? Is she married? What explains her obsession with stealing arcane books? This is a novel about love, both the love between two people and the love we have for books. Rey Rosa is a gifted writer who manages to sprinkle fundamental truths effortlessly throughout his story. Rosa was a student and friend of the late Paul Bowles--Bowles actually translated his first novel into English--and his deep understanding of human behavior is evident in his novels. SEVERINA was translated by Chris Andrews, Roberto Bolano’s first English translator.

Severina (Margellos World Republic of Letters) Cover Image
By Rodrigo Rey Rosa, Chris Andrews (Translator)
$13.00
ISBN: 9780300196092
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Yale University Press - February 25th, 2014

Two Crocodiles (Fyodor Dostoevksy & Felisberto Hernández)

Two stories by two masters in another fantastic New Directions Pearl! In Dostoevsky’s “The Crocodile”, a garrulous, upper-class civil servant named Ivan Matveich is swallowed whole by an abused circus crocodile. Fortunately--or unfortunately--Ivan survives, and believes that he, as a result of his ordeal, has gleaned a “superior” philosophy which he deems it his life’s purpose to share with a fascinated public. This brilliant satire is in keeping with Dostoevsky’s trademark criticism of Russian society, but it is done with refreshingly light and funny touch. Hernández’s “The Crocodile” tells the story of a jaded failed pianist who’s trying to make a living selling women’s pantyhose. One day he discovers that he can manipulate people into buying his wares--and later, listening to him play piano--by crying profusely. These crocodile tears provide a brief, knowing glimpse into the morally murky world of success and self-promotion with which any artist can relate.

Two Crocodiles (New Directions Pearls) Cover Image
$10.95
ISBN: 9780811220989
Availability: Backordered
Published: New Directions Publishing Corporation - July 16th, 2013

The Loser (Thomas Bernhard)

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The Loser (Vintage International) Cover Image
$15.00
ISBN: 9781400077540
Availability: On Our Shelves Now
Published: Vintage - October 17th, 2006

THE LOSER was my first experience with Bernhard, and the optimal starting place for anyone wanting a "Bernhard experience." No one writes sentences like Thomas Bernhard. His novels teem with page-long rants, bursts of language that somersault, backflip, turn in circles and repeat. He quite literally riffs. There’s a music, a cadence, a madness to Bernhard’s writing. It may seem daunting at first, but if a reader allows themselves inside, an entire world reveals itself. A place with all the manias, digressions and humors of a magnificent mind.

Labeling a writer like Bernhard a stylist does him a disservice, for although what he is creating is unquestionably stylish, he is doing other things as well; he is philosophising, telling a story, showing the inner workings of a brilliant but claustrophobic psyche. If the reader wants to delve into the internal they could do no better than Bernhard’s brilliant novels.


Here (Richard McGuire)

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Here (Pantheon Graphic Novels) Cover Image
$35.00
ISBN: 9780375406508
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Pantheon Books - December 9th, 2014

Richard McGuire’s HERE is an astounding graphic novel, a singular work in the medium. Charting the events occurring in a single spot--here--over the course of millennia, McGuire ingeniously overlays images from various epochs, creating a dreamlike tableau that alters the way time is perceived. Just open it up and take a look. Perfect for fans of Chris Ware, or any reader seeking out the unusual.


Last Winter, We Parted ( Fuminori Nakamura)

Last Winter, We Parted Cover Image
$25.00
ISBN: 9781616954550
Availability: Hard to Find
Published: Soho Press - October 21st, 2014

If you are not familiar with the name Fuminori Nakamura, you soon will be. Thought of by many as Haruki Murakami’s heir apparent, Nakamura pens taut, sinister literary noir fiction that explores the treacherous psychological depths of identity and the fragile nature of truth. He is a prodigious talent, providing readers with the perfect balance between literary insight and page-turning thrills.

LAST WINTER, WE PARTED, Nakamura’s third novel translated into English, follows a young writer assigned to interview a notorious murderer--Kiharazaka--before his impending execution. Once a renowned photographer, Kiharazaka is convicted of burning two of his models to death in order to capture their 'essence' on film. However, he is not so keen to divulge his story to the young man on the other side of the glass without first learning a few things about his interlocutor. Thus begins a cat-and-mouse game that will bring into question everything the young writer took for granted about his subject.

Imbued with an utter creepiness, including sexual depravity, obsession, cruelty for cruelty's sake, and a subculture of life-like doll enthusiasts, LAST WINTER, WE PARTED burrows deep inside your psyche and refuses to come out. Read it and meet one of the future greats of Japanese literature.


The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs (Greil Marcus)

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The History of Rock 'n' Roll in Ten Songs Cover Image
$28.00
ISBN: 9780300187373
Availability: Backordered
Published: Yale University Press - September 2nd, 2014

Greil Marcus is hands down the greatest rock critic/historian of our era. He knows popular music the way most people know their parents, and his astonishing new release is destined to become a modern classic. Eschewing the obvious canonical choices and accepted master narrative of rock history, Marcus instead opts for deep cuts and b-sides, charting a free-flowing, non-chronological take on this most American of artforms. His idea is that you can find the “DNA” of rock ‘n’ roll in any song. So garage rockers, doo-wop groups, even Beyoncé (as Etta James) make appearances in this always entertaining and illuminating read. Of course, everyone wants to know who makes the Top 10, but Marcus’ painstakingly detailed alternative lives of Buddy Holly and Robert Johnson are worth the price of admission alone. The what-could-have-beens are almost enough to make you cry...or sing. Highest recommendation!


The Thing About December (Donal Ryan)

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The Thing about December Cover Image
$15.00
ISBN: 9781586422288
Availability: Not On Our Shelves. Usually arrives in 1-5 Days
Published: Steerforth Press - August 26th, 2014

Johnsey Cunliffe is having a hard year. After both his parents die in quick succession, the simple, goodnatured Johnsey is forced to take care of the family’s farm and financials--tasks he sorely lacks the mental capacity to accomplish. Meanwhile, all around Johnsey, Ireland’s unprecedented 21st century economic boom surges. Developers and townsfolk set avaricious sights on the Cunliffe land. The local bullies torment him incessantly. And yet, in the midst of this turmoil, the unexpected salve of love and friendship blossom. But will it be enough?

The follow-up to Ryan’s astounding debut, THE SPINNING HEART, THE THING ABOUT DECEMBER is another near-perfect novel from this young talent. Composed in an endearing, conversational brogue dialect and containing an emotional depth you could drown in, Ryan defies the concept of a sophomore slump. His uncanny, Faulkner-esque ability to delve into both the psyches of individuals and entire communities is masterful. Characters pop off the page as full-formed entities. Some you will come to love. Others you will hate just as passionately.

THE THING ABOUT DECEMBER will fill your heart before breaking it. You will cry. You will laugh. You will learn that, as Johnsey Cunliffe would say, Donal Ryan is the fecking truth!


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