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 …