I’m kind of a sucker for a book that uses games as its central mechanic. They can be really great, or really terrible, like any other kind of book. This one could likewise go either way; Dirda compares Davidson unfavorably to Muriel Spark, but his description of the premise makes it sound darkly fascinating. The Magic Circle follows three bored grad students who make up games that “blur the boundary between reality and ritual — and perhaps sanity and madness as well.” Dirda closes by saying “the spirited plot is allowed to eclipse its fascinating players,” but I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.
The City of Devi is a strange-sounding book about a Muslim love triangle between a man, his wife, and his homosexual lover. Mars-Jones says, “Indian homosexuality is enough of a taboo subject that it’s bracing to read about Jaz’s happy days of cruising in Hyderabad.” But, then there’s also a thriller plot involving cyber-attacks and widespread massacres. These elements, as you might suspect, don’t mix very well.
Similarly to City of Devi, Flamethrowers blends styles and tones, but the latter seems to work better. Charles absolutely raves over this book, calling Kushner “a superb recent-historical novelist.” That recent history is the art scene of 1970s New York, which Kushner blazes across in near-surreal prose.
In brief: Sorry, Joyce Carol Oates, but even this fluffy rave doesn’t convince that your latest rushed-out novel (a ghost story, of all things) will be worth picking up. … The premise of a new book about the CIA seems to be a catalogue of more ways in which the American government breaks its own laws to kill people. … A new nonfiction book, about a time when people didn’t believe that gorillas existed, might be a read-the-review-and-be-done-with-it situation. … Your official overhyped debut literary novel of the month. I just can’t stand another coming-of-age debut. … Another nonfiction book, this one about the science of winning, that you won’t need to actually read after the review.