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Author Archive: "Jeremy"

Talking to Ourselves

Andrés Neuman possesses a formidable talent. Talking to Ourselves, despite its solemnity, is an exceptional work of considerable emotional breadth. While the story itself may well be dolorous, it radiates with an authenticity that can often be elusive in fiction. There's a vibrancy and liveliness to Neuman's writing (as well-evidenced, too, in 2012's remarkable Traveler of the Century) that is irresistible. Even if one were not captivated by his arresting tale, persuasive characters, or sonorous prose, the impassioned effects of his storytelling are inescapable.


2666

Completed in 2003 shortly before his death, 2666 is not only Roberto Bolaño's masterpiece but also one of the finest and most important novels of the 21st century. It's an entire world unto itself, one — not unlike our own — filled with horror, neglect, depravity, brilliance, and beauty. Epic in scope and epitomizing the "total novel," 2666 fuses many different genres and styles to create a singular and unforgettable work of contemporary fiction. While Bolaño's swan song marked the pinnacle of a sadly truncated literary career, his immense talent, creativity, and vision endure.


On Such a Full Sea

From the acclaimed author of Native Speaker comes a stirring new novel set in a futuristic America. With beautiful prose, Chang-rae Lee relates the captivating tale of a young woman compelled to find her lover after his disappearance from their labor settlement.


How Literature Saved My Life

David Shields's new book is a collagist's and lit lover's dream come true. Erudite and thoughtful, if you've ever lived or read a novel, you'll find much to admire and ruminate upon.


Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile

Feeding on Dreams is a candid and powerful account of Ariel Dorfman's years in exile after he fled the horrors of the Pinochet regime in Chile. This exploration of both the immediate and lasting effects of political repression and violence is characterized by an unflinching regard for truth and is expressed in prose that is as illuminating as his subject is dark. A deeply passionate book, Dorfman lays bare his anger, frustration, regret, and self-criticism, as well as his hope, longing, faith, determination, and passion.


Report from Wordstock

[Editor's Note: The Wordstock Festival overtook the city of Portland from November 6th through the 9th. Check out a photo slide show here.]

With nearly 200 authors on-hand, the fourth installment of Wordstock, Portland's annual literary festival, was quite the success. A book lover's playground, Wordstock featured over 150 exhibitors, including independent bookshops, local publishers, and small presses. The only problem faced by festival-goers was how best to apportion their time between the ten author stages, numerous workshops, and many panel discussions.

This year's overall attendance exceeded last year's, and some of the weekend's biggest draws were for authors John Hodgman (More Information Than You Require), Alison Bechdel (Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, The Essential Dykes to Watch Out for), and Lynda Barry (What It Is).

Bibliophiles from around the Portland area descended on the convention center ...


New York Review Books #10: Jakob Von Gunten

Admittedly, as I read the first dozen or so pages, I wasn't sure how much I would be able to enjoy the "analytic fictional soliloquy" of a precocious teenager. It turns out, immensely. Robert Walser writes nearly flawlessly, crafting a prose that is seamless and bewitching. A century old, Jakob von Gunten reads as if it could have been written this decade (save, of course, for the fact that young Jakob would undoubtedly be ingesting a wide array of mind-numbing, soul-dispiriting pharmaceuticals, and, thus, wouldn't near even the most nebulous of insights).

In Jakob, the Swiss writer has constructed a disarmingly believable character, one replete with a temperament both quizzical and inquisitive. This ridiculously sensitive young man is not only curious about himself and others, but, too, about his and others' place in the world around them (a proclivity notably absent even from most adults). With wisdom well beyond his chronological age, the title character is obviously prone to vacillating between the peaks of self-assuredness and the nadirs of self-doubt. With little action to sustain the narrative, it is Jakob's observations and introspections that make this novel so charming and endearing. Mingling the arduousness of youth with the limitations of ...


The Natural Order of Things

Born in Lisbon in 1942, António Lobo Antunes is widely considered to be a strong contender for the Nobel Prize. A psychiatrist by trade, Antunes partly gave up his practice in the early 1980's to focus on writing, following the success of his early novels. Antunes's style is often compared to that of Faulkner, Joyce, and Céline, and has already won him over a half dozen international literary awards. The Natural Order of Things, set in his native Portugal (as are most of his novels), is the surreal tale of two families and the enigmatic relations that adhere them to one another throughout the passing generations. At once complex and evocative, the story's fantastical narrative exhibits Antunes's magnificent command of prose and his thorough discernment of the human subconscious. Beautifully told, yet terribly tragic, The Natural Order of Things is an urgent and illuminating book from one of modern literature's most underrated masters.


The Stone Raft

Called "the most gifted novelist alive in the world today" by critic Harold Bloom, Saramago was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1998. This, the most fantastical of all his novels, is the lyrical and richly imagined tale of five strangers (and a dog that doesn't bark) whose fates become intertwined whence the Iberian Peninsula breaks off from the European continent and begins to sail forth into the Atlantic Ocean. Deeply allegorical, Saramago's vivid prose and unique style (he omits quotation marks and employs periods very sparingly) collide to form this moving story full of humor, wit, philosophy and parable. The Stone Raft is a brilliant book, its success coming as much from Saramago's love of language as his capacity to tell an absolutely riveting tale.


Mascara

Chilean novelist Ariel Dorfman, like many of his contemporaries, was forced into exile following the 1973 coup. Too, like many of his fellow Latin American writers, he is grossly neglected by many (if not most) readers in English-speaking countries. He currently teaches at Duke University in North Carolina.

Mascara, in many ways, defies traditional classification as a novel. It explores identity, the individual, anonymity, aesthetics, appearances, betrayal, beauty, modern culture, and the media. The narrative, told mostly in the first person, is infused with an inertia that propels the story onward at a commanding pace. Dorfman, through an obfuscated and unnamed character, is able to craft a story of intrigue and import, one in which the reader is left to assert for him- or herself the ever-growing effects of a culture that values the facade over the substance, the form over the function. Mascara is, perhaps, all the more modern now than when he wrote it some 20 years ago. In too many ways, there is a tragic, nearly horrific, aspect to the novel as a whole.

Dorfman writes tantalizingly well and leads the reader to places unexpected, all but forcing one to confront the many things he has left ...


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