Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Book Review: Petty Business by Yirmi Pinkus

"Petty Business, the second of Yirmi Pinkus’ five novels and the first to be published in English, satirically portrays the life of a family of Tel Aviv store owners with both fondness and humor over one year—1989, a time in which neighborhood mom and pop stores were being put out of business by larger chain and department stores, just as the latter are now under pressure from Internet vendors.

"... The novel’s title in the original Hebrew edition is the Aramaic phrase Bi’zer Anpin, which means 'on a small scale, in miniature,' and this family and their enterprises are a microcosm of a lower-middle class retail subculture at the end of an era.

"Overseas Pinkus is better known as cartoonist, and his book cover illustration of bathers in the waterpark swimming pool provides a preview of his satirical take on that subculture whose narrative portrait is also poignant. Pinkus’ mastery of language is every bit equal to that of his visual medium, and translators Evan Fallenberg and Yardena Greenspan do a fine job of conveying his varied prose into English." -- from my review of Petty Business by Yirmi Pinkus in New York Journal of Books


Sunday, February 4, 2018

Book review: The Ruined House by Ruby Namdar

"One of the lessons this complicated book conveys is how difficult it is to achieve the golden mean, balancing a serious writer’s need for solitude to reduce distractions with the need to stay connected and involved with one’s family and loved ones on the one hand, and integrating knowledge and appreciation for global culture with an intimate involvement with one’s particular tradition and civilization on the other. If the consequences of failing to achieve those balances are not as dire for most of us as they are for Andrew, nonetheless many of us would benefit from a closer examination and recalibration. Extending the metaphor on a national and international scale to include the 9/11 attack may seem like a stretch, or is it?" -- From my review of The Ruined House by Ruby Namdar in New York Journal of Books

The Ruined House book cover

Friday, December 22, 2017

Book Review: North Station by Bae Suah

"One way to view these stories is as philosophical essays in fictional form that address some of the same philosophical, psychological, spiritual, aesthetic, cultural, and societal topics and concerns that are found in Bae’s longer fiction. But by devoting each story to only two or three of those topics and freed from a longer work’s overarching narrative the stories address those issues in even greater depth and convey them with poetic prose of comparable beauty to that found in her previous books in English translation. Compared to them this book has an even higher degree of difficulty—with abrupt linguistic changes in voice, number, and/or gender and multiple starting, stopping, and resuming narrative threads—that demand highly focused concentration but like them reward rereading." -- From my review of North Station by Bae Suah in New York Journal of Books

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Book review: Madonna in a Fur Coat by Sabahattin Ali

"Seventy-four years ago, nine years before the publication of The Second Sex and 20 years before The Feminine Mystique, a male Turkish communist novelist created a fictional feminist character who is the heroine of a love story that suggests an egalitarian heterosexual courtship can be based on honesty, candor, and mutual respect.

"Three quarters of a century after it was written Madonna in a Fur Coat by Sabahattin Ali feels both dated and timeless; dated because strong, independent women are no longer a rarity and contemporary gender roles are more fluid, and timeless as the ideal of a love without ulterior motives, the theme of missed opportunities, and the psychology of the principle characters—all of which are conveyed in crisp contemporary English by translators Maureen Freely and Alexander Dawe." -- From my review of Madonna in a Fur Coat in New York Journal of Books 

Madonna in a Fur Coat book cover

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Book review: Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss

forestdarkbookcover"In writing her way out of a personal trial Krauss has expanded her range." -- from my review of Forest Dark by Nicole Krauss in New York Journal of Books

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Book Review: Dinner at the Center of the Earth by Nathan Englander

dinneratthecenteroftheearthbookcover "In the book’s acknowledgements Englander thanks his editor for extracting the text of the novel from a much longer manuscript. The salvage operation feels uneven as a work of literature, but its ideas are worth engaging." -- from my review in New York Journal of Books

Book Review: An Egyptian Novel by Orly Castel-Bloom

anegyptiannovelbookcover   "A recurring theme is how and to what extent characters recover from setbacks, displacement, and disappointments. Tel-Aviv, particularly north Tel-Aviv (an established affluent neighborhood in the later chapters/stories but new construction in the early ones) where the Kastil brothers and their families live, gives the book a sense of place." -- from my review of An Egyptian Novel by Orly Castel-Bloom in New York Journal of Books