new books

Victim and Accuser Clash in David Bezmozgis’ ‘The Betrayers’

Lee Polevoi

The setup of David Bezmozgis’ second novel is refreshingly simple. Baruch Kotler, a prominent Israeli politician (and former political prisoner in the USSR) has fled Tel Aviv in disgrace with his much younger mistress, Leora. They come to Yalta, a resort town in the Crimea, where, after a mix-up over hotel reservations, they rent a room in an apartment owned by a Russian woman, Svetlana. As we quickly discover, Svetlana’s aged husband, Chaim Tankilevich, is the man who long ago denounced Kotler to the KGB, which led to Kotler’s 13 years of exile and imprisonment.    

Joshua Ferris Examines the Life of a Cyberstalking Victim in New Book

Lee Polevoi

The plot, such as it is, kicks in when Paul discovers that someone, perhaps a former patient, has begun to impersonate him online. First, a new company website appears (not of Paul’s doing), with more or less accurate staff bios for everyone but him (which instead of facts about his life promulgates strange notions about religion). Then there’s a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a Wikipedia entry—every upsetting development reported to Paul by Connie or Mrs. Convoy while he’s hard at work deep inside the mouths of his patients.

Covert Attempts at Mideast Peace Detailed in ‘The Good Spy’

Lee Polevoi

That long intelligence war is the focus of the book, which goes into considerable detail about Ames’ comings and goings throughout the Middle East (and in the Washington, D.C. area). Bird writes at great length about many clandestine meetings Ames arranged and conducted with PLO members at that time, an account that comes to have, for the reader, gradually diminishing returns. The fact that he had so many unauthorized encounters with the PLO is significant for the time, but is not in itself terribly interesting. 

Ayelet Waldman Goes In Search of Lost Treasures in New Book

Kaitlyn Fajilan

The year is 1945. The setting, the outskirts of Salzburg, Austria. Newly victorious American soldiers approach a series of over 40 passenger and freight wagons from Hungary. To their surprise, inside the wagons are the countless possessions of Hungary's displaced Jews--from gold watches, to silver candlesticks, to silk bedsheets, to old manuscripts--they number in the hundred thousands, their records of ownership tenuous at best. This mass of abandoned items will become known to history as the Hungarian Gold Train.

Love, Loneliness Are Focus of David James Poissant’s' The Heaven of Animals'

Melinda Parks

If a purpose of literature is to expose universal truths about life and human nature, then David James Poissant’s The Heaven of Animals has done its job. Poissant, a celebrated young writer whose stories have appeared in such publications as The Atlantic Monthly, The Chicago Tribune, and The New York Times, and whose work has already garnered impressive literary awards and critical praise, presents layered storylines and realistically flawed characters in his first collection of short stories.

Navigating the Mostly Difficult World of Chang-Rae Lee

Lee Polevoi

The decision proves to be a masterstroke, since one of the chief pleasures of On Such a Full Sea is the anxious, reflective, self-questioning and cautiously prideful “chorus of We” that tells the story of Fan, a 16-year-old fish-tank diver in a highly stratified, post-apocalyptic America. The collective voice emanates from B-Mor, “once known as Baltimore,” whose inhabitants are charged with raising fish and vegetables to feed the elite Charter villages, located across a vast, lawless territory called the “open counties.” 

Corruption, Greed in the Roaring ‘20s Set the Tone for ‘Truth to Power’

Rebekah Frank

The roaring Twenties, organized crime, crooked politicians, the assault on the newspaper industry by big money, sex, love, romance; Truth to Power by J.S. Matlin has it all.  Only it still manages to fall flat.  The book, broken into three subsections, begins in 1924 with the central character, David Driscoll, pulling into a town called St. Luke in the American Midwest.  Humiliated by the discovery of his dalliance with the editor-in-chief’s wife and an unethical arrangement with an advertiser, he is sent packing from his first job at The St. Louis Star to a smalltown newspaper called The St. Luke Bugle.

Love and Mayhem Take up Residence in ‘Men in Miami Hotels’

Lee Polevoi

In Smith’s novel, a character’s wig, “like an orange egret nest, sat puffed and glistening on the table.” A “tiny, ambidextrous breeze” floats down an alley. In Albertson’s headquarters we find “the factotums and skill men and hangers-on, the rumble boys and the slack, ruined characters kept around by Albertson to remind him of worlds and episodes most men would want to forget.” Cot “sits in the shade looking out at the ocean, a bleak expression on his face like that of a man marooned on an island nobody will discover for years.”

Crisscrossing the Pond in Colum McCann’s ‘TransAtlantic’

Lee Polevoi

Fictional characters that appear fleetingly in these early sections rise to prominence later in TransAtlantic. From the 19th century to nearly the present day, McCann brilliantly draws us into the lives of several generations of women: Lily Duggan, a penniless maid in Webb’s Dublin household who immigrates to America; her daughter Emily, a journalist, who reports on Brown and Alcock’s historic flight; Emily’s daughter, Lottie, who suffers a mother’s loss during the Troubles and later exhorts Sen. Mitchell to end the violence. These characters’ lives are deftly intertwined, adding considerable texture to a story that otherwise threatens to be sprawling and diffuse.

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