‘Lightning Falls in Love’ by Laura Kasischke: A Series of Unending Moments

by Chiara Bercu

Laura Kasischke’s latest poetry collection, Lightning Falls in Love (144 pages; Copper Canyon Press), is a charming address to time and the eternities sustained in memory. In fifty-two poems, Kasischke moves multilaterally over the many folds and features of memory, both personal and fantastic. “I was living my life a second time/for the first time/in my life,” she writes, “understanding/that I’d already lived a long time before I realized/that I was old enough by then to have been/my own daughter when my mother died.” What’s assembled in the collection is a swift mélange of the past, equal parts ordinary, death-bound, and […]

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‘Leave Society’ by Tao Lin: Our 21st Century Malady

by Zack Ravas

If part of the success of any novel involves timing, Tao Lin perhaps couldn’t have chosen a better moment for Leave Society (352 pages; Vintage) to have come out than during an extended pandemic. Though the story takes place over several years prior to 2020, its main character maintains a hermetic lifestyle many of us can relate to at present, whether we’d like to or not: “… isolating himself in his apartment in Manhattan, replacing pills and friends and most of culture with cannabis and books, and finding new interests…” Leave Society continues Tao Lin’s tendency for autofiction by following […]

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‘The Savage Kind’ by John Copenhaver: Seeking Agency By Any Means Possible

by Supriya Saxena

The femme fatale of classic detective fiction and noir films rarely offers a kind portrayal of women. Mysterious and alluring, she commits all sorts of devious and despicable acts for her own gain, and the narrative invariably punishes her in the end. As misogynistic as this archetype is, the concept of a woman who seeks independence and agency through lethal means is certainly an intriguing one. It is easy to understand why John Copenhaver chose to reimagine the femme fatale in his coming-of-age mystery novel The Savage Kind (384 pages; Pegasus Crime). This dark, captivating novel follows two teenage girls […]

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‘Dante’s Indiana’ by Randy Boyagoda: A Severe Satire

by Shelby Hinte

We are living in an era of instant gratification—information accessible via our fingertips in a matter of seconds, food delivered to our doorsteps without so much as having to talk to another human being, fast-track degree programs, and attaining inner peace through a single weekend meditation retreat—not to mention the omnipresence of quick-fix drugs that can calm your nerves, kill your pain, eliminate excess weight, liven your libido, grant you access to euphoria, and, in general, make life a little less miserable. Randy Boyagoda’s newest novel, Dante’s Indiana (224 pages; Biblioasis), a standalone sequel to his novel Original Prin, is […]

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‘I Wished’ by Dennis Cooper: Serving Witness

by Zack Ravas

George Miles. To the average reader, it’s not a name that necessarily conjures associations; but for followers of underground literary icon Dennis Cooper, it’s a name that has loomed large since the publication of Cooper’s first novel, Closer, in 1989. That book marked the beginning of Cooper’s most enduring body of a work, a five-novel series collectively known as the George Miles Cycle. The novels form a loosely connected narrative that, by Cooper’s own admission, represent his attempts to process his relationship with Miles, an enigmatic young man suffering from mental illness and a general difficulty at articulating himself. Unbeknown […]

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‘Cloud Cuckoo Land’ by Anthony Doerr: Across Time and Space

by Mike Berry

Anthony Doerr thinks big. His latest novel, the follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize-winning All the Light We Cannot See, not only clocks in at more than 600 pages, but follows five major protagonists across three meticulously detailed timelines. Added to that, it focuses attention on a lost, resurrected manuscript that exemplifies the power of literature and of librarians by envisioning a magical place between Earth and Heaven. Cloud Cuckoo Land (628 pages; Scribner) is set in 15th-century Constantinople, contemporary Idaho, and aboard a generational starship in the not-too-distant future. The cast of characters includes a teenage ox driver, a young […]

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‘Householders’ by Kate Cayley: Of Misfits & Runaways

by Peter Schlachte

In a 2013 interview, Canadian writer and theatre director Kate Cayley noted the influence of Wendell Berry’s poetry on her writing, describing him as “a voice crying in the wilderness.” It’s an apt description of Berry’s work, suffused as it is with a sense of the bucolic and the simple in the face of the anthropocene and capitalism. Yet, in a very different sense, it’s also an apt description of Cayley’s stories in Householders (224; Biblioasis), her most recent story collection. Even surrounded by others, Cayley’s characters in Householders are often alone—misfits, runaways, forsaking the ties of friends and family, […]

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‘The Manningtree Witches’ by A.K. Blakemore: Compelled to Torture

by Supriya Saxena

The Manningtree Witches (320 pages; Catapult) is about all the ugliness that comes with being a woman in a society in which they are oppressed and deemed inferior. Set in the small English town of Manningtree, A. K. Blakemore’s first novel illustrates the anti-witch hysteria sweeping the townspeople as related by Rebecca West, a young woman who lives in Manningtree with her widowed mother. It is a picture both vivid and ugly, and though the book is set in the 17th century it feels relevant to our present day.  Rebecca makes for an insightful protagonist, describing the extraordinary and horrific […]

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‘Death Fugue’ by Sheng Keyi: A Tower of…What?

by Colton Alstatt

In Sheng Keyi’s absurdist novel, Death Fugue (translated by Shelly Bryant; 376 pages; Restless Books), a tower made of feces appears in Round Square in the fictional capital of Beiping, much to the intrigue of young people who do not believe, as the government and media say, that the nine-story heap is composed of gorilla excrement. Concerned with more than sphincter logistics and scatological expertise, this excitable group demands answers from an unaccountable government. In response, protesters are rounded up, thinkers put on watchlists, and the movement’s final gathering quashed with incredible force. Banned in China’s bookstores and circulating in […]

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‘Afterparties’ by Anthony Veasna So: Born from Incongruence

by Peter Schlachte

The stories in Anthony Veasna So’s debut collection, Afterparties (272 pages; Ecco), are stories of humor and wit, of loud-mouths and bad-mouthers, of queer kids and chain-smoking monks and parties and sex, sometimes all squashed together in a few whirlwind pages. They are also stories of genocide and diaspora, of making ends meet and meeting ends. It’s a tight line to walk—the balance of the sometimes tragic with the often comical—but for So, who died in 2020 at the age of 28, it seemed second nature. “I think humor is a particularly important tool in immigrant literature and stories, or […]

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‘Something New Under the Sun’ by Alexandra Kleeman: Don’t Drink the WAT-R

by Shelby Hinte

Imagine for a moment that the power to your city has been turned off for an undisclosed amount of time—a precautionary measure to ensure that homes are not engulfed in flames by the fires that rage just outside the city limits. A heat wave invades the city and in the darkness of a blacked-out night, no air conditioners hum. People open their windows to let in air, any air, to cool themselves amid the scorching heat, even if it is full of smoke from nearby fires. The state has issued water restrictions due to drought and, oh yes, people are […]

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‘Appleseed’ by Matt Bell: From Antiquity to Apocalypse

by Colton Alstatt

From novelist Matt Bell comes his newest book, Appleseed (480 pages; Custom House), a story about the linked fates of three Ohioans: a malformed brother in pre-colonial America hunting the Tree of Forgetting, hoping to forget pasts he does and does not know; a near-future ecoterrorist resisting his former lover’s corporate dystopia across an abandoned United States; and a haunted cyborg crossing an icy, post-human purgatory to re-cultivate the Earth, which, despite lacking the vocabulary or Keatsian tradition, he instinctually knows is beautiful. Sentence-level epics form on every page, the prose floating between beatific and elegiac: This overripe abundance all […]

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