This is a quirky little piece from the brand-new Slate Book Review. It contains a few oddities like a big block quote in the early going, and a bar graph detailing how many pages the main character spends at different activities. These quirks befit a massive (600+ page) debut novel full of lists, anecdotes, asides, court transcripts, and other digressions. Another peculiarity: De La Pava self-published this book in 2008, and it was only recently picked up by the University of Chicago Press (more on that here). That alone makes it worth a look. Find this book at Goodreads.
Newman kicks off with this eye-catching opening line: “No subject offers a greater opportunity for terrible writing than motherhood,” and then proceeds to explain that writing well about children is hard because child-rearing is so mind-numbingly boring. On the shortlist of qualities I prize in book reviews, “acerbic humor” might be at the very top. Find this book at Goodreads.
Ulin finds Irving’s latest—which follows the life of a bisexual man over the course of four decades—good, but too familiar and ultimately unbelievable. His meditation on the modern-day role of sexually political novels like this one is well worth reading, shame that Irving’s novel does not seem the same. However, Jeanette Winterson, in the New York Times, takes a more favorable outlook. But then Ron Charles breaks the tie on Ulin’s side. Find this book at Goodreads.
Julavits’s latest mixes a pitch-black tone with a markedly silly setting: a liberal arts college for psychics. Sounds like it has enjoyable passages that don’t quite cohere. Oh, and a completely inappropriate cover. Find this book at Goodreads.