Nicole Krauss, Lynd Ward And 'Trash': Book Review Roundup

10/11/2010 04:50 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

"Djibouti" by Elmore Leonard
The New York Times:

"Neither Dara, Xavier nor, apparently, Mr. Leonard is exactly sure what opportunities Djibouti will provide. In a book without a powerhouse plot but with plenty of the old familiar crackle, Mr. Leonard simply flies his principals to this exotic spot and then imagines which other opportunists might be drawn to the place."

"Six Novels In Woodcut" by Lynd Ward, edited by Art Spiegelman
The New York Times:

"Yet Ward is not entirely contemporary: while most graphic novelists today depend on a combination of words and images to tell their stories, Ward let his pictures speak for themselves. This could be challenging for the audience. "Gods' Man" -- 139 wood engravings about a destitute artist seeking fame and fortune, who accepts a magic brush from a mysterious stranger -- almost demands that the reader insert imaginary dialogue between the pictures, even within each frame. Yet the brilliance of Ward's work is that it's not so hard to imagine what that dialogue would be. As in the best silent movies, the images really do carry the narrative."

"Trash" by Andy Mulligan
The Los Angeles Times:

"Popular young adult fiction is dominated by fantasy and tales that trade in the tropes of high school hierarchy and unrequited love. So it's refreshing when a book takes us into the largely unexplored Third World and the experiences of its unprivileged, as is the case with "Trash," a gem of a young adult debut from author Andy Mulligan."

"Great House" by Nicole Krauss
The Los Angeles Times:

"That's unfortunate, for "Great House" -- much like Krauss'exquisite and widely acclaimed "The History of Love" before it -- is an exercise in kaleidoscopic storytelling, a novel that seeks to weave four groups of characters into a larger meditation on memory and loss. There is Nadia, a middle-aged novelist transfigured by a youthful interaction with a martyred Chilean poet named Daniel Varsky; for a quarter century, she has written at his desk. Paralleling her experience is Lotte Berg, a generation older and herself the author of elliptical short stories, who also worked at the desk for many years."

"Nothing Happens Until It Happens To You: A Novel Without Pay, Perks, Or Privileges" by T.M. Shine
AV Club:

"M. Shine, whose writing style defines "gentle humorist," takes aim at the Great Recession and the unemployment epidemic in his latest novel, chronicling the weird journey of a man who held the same job for nearly two decades, and was then cruelly cast aside without any other marketable skills. Shine's tone is well-suited for the tale, and his voice repeatedly rises off the page in the dulcet tones of a humorous anecdote related on NPR."

"Gold Boy, Emerald Girl" by Yiyun Li
AV Club:

"Yiyun Li's writing is oddly soothing. Her sentences convey a sense of relaxation, of slowly slipping into a place where living life matters more than simply letting everything slip by, where watching other people is more interesting than doing anything yourself. This is what keeps her new story collection, Gold Boy, Emerald Girl, from falling into a pit of predictability, but it also makes the book feel oddly somnambulant. Some of the stories vividly express what it's like to live on the edges of society, always watching other people who seem to live in more interesting worlds. Some are inert and lifeless on the page, pinned down and dissected until they're dead."

"At Home: A Short History of Private Life" by Bill Bryson
The Seattle Times:

"Most people would be satisfied with a home in a village like one in the county of Norfolk, England, and simply go on enjoying it, but not Bill Bryson ("A Short History of Nearly Everything"). A chance inspection of an attic to determine the source of a drip leads him in an unexpected direction. He begins strolling from room to room, pondering domestic objects around him -- a fork, a sofa, a cabinet -- and also the function of each space, as well as how it might have evolved through time. The journal he keeps results in a new book, quirky but entertaining, filled with observations about the history of everyday life spanning the last 150 or so years."

"The False Friend" by Myla Goldberg
San Francisco Chronicle:

"There are few things more difficult than admitting to a lie. Of course, the confession also brings relief - that great, cathartic unburdening. But what if you finally muster the courage to admit to your lie and no one believes you? Worse, you are told that the lie was your memory's own invention? This is the surreal situation Celia Durst navigates in Myla Goldberg's new novel, "The False Friend."

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