'Necessary Errors' By Caleb Crain: The Book We're Talking About

08/05/2013 03:11 pm ET

Necessary Errors by Caleb Crain
Penguin Books, $16.00
Published on August 6, 2013

What is it about?

The book is about expats in Prague during the early 90s. It focuses on Jacob, who teaches English to Czechs, and his relationship with the community of expats he enters into.

Why are we talking about it?

Caleb Crain is well known as a literary critic, so we were curious to see what he could do with fiction.

Who wrote it?

Caleb Crain is a literary critic and journalist who has written for The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The Nation, The New York Times, and The Paris Review Daily, among others. This is his debut novel.

Who will read it?

Literary fiction fans.

What do the reviewers say?

Publishers Weekly: "Crain reinvents the novel of the innocent abroad in his well-wrought debut."

Kirkus: "Crain’s world is drenched with the climate and colors—sometimes drab—of a post-revolutionary world of possibility and promise."

Bloomberg: "In keeping with the ambiguity that defines this smart, pensive novel, the reader is left wondering just which was the real error: going to Prague in the first place or returning to life among the strivers he fled."

Opening lines:

"It was October, and the leaves of the oaks around the language school had turned gold and were batting light into its tall windows. A young Irish woman was seated alone in the teacher's lounge. She had made herself a cup of tea on the range in the corner, and she was opening a tangerine on a paper napkin, with hungry carelessness."

Notable passage:

"There was such a thing as a resistance to story. There was even a pleasure in the resisting of it, a somewhat violent pleasure--and there there was the pleasure of having the two of them near him, the pleasure he took in their beauty, as his friends, which was like a wealth he shared in, without any responsibility for it."

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