Book Reviews

The Dig

The Dig

The Dig, by Cynan Jones, Coffee House Press, 2015. $15.95, 156 pages.

Trembling with taut, visceral prose, Cynan Jones’s The Dig is a sparse work of searing beauty. Set in rural Wales, The Dig follows the lives of two …

Sympathetic People

Sympathetic People

Sympathetic People, by Donna Baier Stein, Serving House Books, 2013. $13.95, 148 pages.

“What would life be without hunger?” The narrator in Donna Baier Stein’s short story “Coming Clean” asks a man with whom she has had an affair. Though …

Battleborn

Battleborn

Battleborn, by Claire Vaye Watkins. Riverhead Books, 2012. $16, 288 pages.

With the Mojave Desert as her set and vibrant characters as her stars, Watkins’s collection is an almost filmic bricolage of survival in an unforgiving landscape. Watkins’s stories …

Dollbaby

Dollbaby

Dollbaby, by Laura Lane McNeal. Viking, 2014. $26.95, 337 pages.

In her debut novel, author Laura Lane McNeal maps out the city of New Orleans in order to imagine a gripping tale of family secrets, civil rights, and Southern …

The Escape Artist

The Escape Artist

J.D. Salinger: The Escape Artist, by Thomas Beller. New Harvest, 2014. $20, 192 pages.

J.D. Salinger wasn’t in the middle school canon where I grew up. Ventura, California, for most of my life, was a gerrymandered center-right political district. So my …

Pale Horse, Pale Rider

Pale Horse, Pale Rider

An experiment with the form of the nineteenth-century-style review: mega-long excerpts connected by impressionistic ligaments.

Pale Horse, Pale Rider, by Katherine Anne Porter. Random House, 1936.

Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskell tried to persuade Charlotte Brontë—whose grim experience of the …

The Pedestrians

The Pedestrians

The Pedestrians, by Rachel Zucker. Wave Books, 2014. $18, 143 pages.

“How can any mother write an epic?” asks Rachel Zucker in her most recent poetry collection, The Pedestrians. Filled with fables, dreams, and ruminations, the book quivers with the …

Q

Q

Q, by Bill Lavender. Trembling Pillow Press, 2013. $16.95, 196 pages.

In his introduction to the 1998 Dalkey Archive Press volume entitled Innovations: an Anthology of Modern and Contemporary Fiction, Robert McLaughlin, countering old fuddy-duddy F.R. Leavis, makes …