The Harder They Come, TC Boyle
TC Boyle's latest novel blasts off at warp speed. When a tour group is held up by armed robbers in the Costa Rican jungle, Vietnam vet Sten Stensen saves the day, catches the attention of the media and becomes a minor celebrity. But back home in California, his racist/survivalist son is on the brink of going postal. Using turbocharged prose, Boyle paints a frightening picture of America’s radical right-wing psyche in all its gun-totin’ off-the-grid glory. His alienated characters, fuelled by paranoia, parrot anti-government propaganda in an atmosphere where seeing someone else’s viewpoint is akin to treason. This is a timely, unsettling and provocative read.
Granta 131, Edited by Sigrid Rausing
Nothing gives you more bang for your buck than Granta, the UK publisher that turns “the attention of the world’s best writers onto one aspect of the way we live now”. Combining fiction, reportage, memoir and poetry with photo essays, every edition offers abundant thought provocation – in bite-size chunks – for all tastes. The Spring 2015 issue, The Map Is Not the Territory, focuses on the chasm between our view of the world and how it really is. Standouts are the frontline journalism of Charles Glass (Armenian genocide in Syria) and Janine di Giovanni (Iraq conflict), and the short stories of Kevin Canty (The Florida Motel) and Ottessa Moshfegh (Nothing Ever Happens Here).
The Sunlit Night, Rebecca Dinerstein
Jilted by her boyfriend and with her parents’ marriage on the rocks, Frances escapes Manhattan to accept a painting apprenticeship at an isolated artist colony in Lofoten, an archipelago in the Norwegian Sea. There she meets Yasha, who has buried his Russian father in this “peaceful place at the top of the world”. In her debut novel – by turns melancholy and humorous but always acutely observed – Dinerstein explores the nature of family dysfunction, grief and loss as two lonely people collide under the midnight sun. The inescapable conclusion is that setting our personal GPS relies less on geography and more on the people we care for. This is a writer to watch.
A Fortunate Age, Joanna Rakoff
Freshly graduated from private liberal arts college Oberlin, a Gen X clique is ready to make its mark on New York. The money-making imperative is slowly supplanting “being interesting” and bohemian disarray in Brooklyn is being traded for middle-class comforts. The action occurs during the tech boom of the late ’90s, crashing to a halt with 9/11’s reality check. This is a reworking of Mary McCarthy’s The Group – officially a homage – but the satire and harsh judgement of the 1963 novel is mostly absent. Gently funny, Rakoff’s writing is perceptive – especially with pop-culture references – and she obviously cares about her characters. Lightweight yet strangely worthy. ￼