From the publisher: Corbin College, not-quite-upstate New York, winter 1959-1960: Ruben Blum, a Jewish historian – but not an historian of the Jews – is coopted onto a hiring committee to review the application of an exiled Israeli scholar specializing in the Spanish Inquisition. When Benzion Netanyahu shows up for an interview, family unexpectedly in tow, Blum plays the reluctant host, to guests who proceed to lay waste to his American complacencies. Mixing fiction with non-fiction, the campus novel with the lecture, The Netanyahus is a wildly inventive, genre-bending comedy of blending, identity, and politics.
by Lily Lauver
Read the Book First: In Defense of Women Talking and White Noise
I hardly need to add my voice to the slew of recommendations of White Noise by Don DeLillo and Women Talking by Miriam Toews. They are two of my favorite novels. Both books have received rousing praise since their publications for literary ingenuity and heart, with White Noise becoming a classic since its 1985 release and Women Talking, released in 2019, sure to become a classic in time. It’s no surprise that filmmakers have set their ambitions on turning these iconic narratives into movies. Film adaptations of both novels have release dates set for December and are premiering at film festivals throughout the coming months.
Lily’s Book Recommendations for Autumn
Fall is descending on us, and even now the earliest leaves are starting to go. In fall, I like books full of introspection—books that I could read by the fire just as well as on the porch, depending on the weather. While very different from each other, in each of these books you’ll find great emotional depth and authors unafraid to ask the questions that make us who we are.
Book Review | This Weightless World by Adam Soto
From the publisher: From the streets of gentrified Chicago, to the tech boom corridors of Silicon Valley, This Weightless World follows a revolving cast of characters after alien contact upends their lives.
Book Review | Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
From her place in the store, Klara, an Artificial Friend with outstanding observational qualities, watches carefully the behavior of those who come in to browse, and of those who pass on the street outside. She remains hopeful that a customer will soon choose her, but when the possibility emerges that her circumstances may change forever, Klara is warned not to invest too much in the promises of humans.
Klara and the Sun topped many “Best Books of 2021” lists, including ours. One should expect no less from Kazuo Ishiguro, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. I loved reading this book very much: like many of Ishiguro’s novels, Klara and the Sun suspended its sense of mystery until the very end, even beyond it. I found, however, that the novel didn’t pull me in in the way that many of Ishiguro’s earlier works do…
Book Review | Census by Jesse Ball
From the publisher: When a widower receives notice from a doctor that he doesn’t have long left to live, he is struck by the question of who will care for his adult son—a son whom he fiercely loves, a boy with Down syndrome. With no recourse in mind, and with a desire to see the country on one last trip, the man signs up as a census taker for a mysterious governmental bureau and leaves town with his son.
Jesse Ball writes, as a prologue to his novel Census, of his late brother, Abram, who had Down’s Syndrome. Ball explains that his novel Census is, in part, an effort to create a character very like his brother, to render a relationship very like the one he had with his brother, which was almost that of a father and son…
Book Review | Weather by Jenny Offill
From the publisher: Lizzie Benson slid into her job as a librarian without a traditional degree. But this gives her a vantage point from which to practice her other calling: she is a fake shrink. For years, she has tended to her God-haunted mother and her recovering addict brother. They have both stabilized for the moment, but Lizzie has little chance to spend her new free time with husband and son before her old mentor, Sylvia Liller, makes a proposal. She’s become famous for her prescient podcast, Hell and High Water, and wants to hire Lizzie to answer the mail she receives: from left-wingers worried about climate change and right wingers worried about the decline of western civilization.
As Lizzie dives into this polarized world, she begins to wonder what it means to keep…
Book Review | In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado
From the publisher: In the Dream House is Carmen Maria Machado’s engrossing and wildly innovative account of a relationship gone bad, and a bold dissection of the mechanisms and cultural representations of psychological abuse. Tracing the full arc of a harrowing relationship with a charismatic but volatile woman, Machado struggles to make sense of how what happened to her shaped the person she was becoming.
And it’s that struggle that gives the book its original structure: each chapter is driven by its own narrative trope―the haunted house, erotica, the bildungsroman―through which Machado holds the events up to the light and examines them from different angles. She looks back at her religious adolescence, unpacks the stereotype of lesbian…
Book Review | Fight Night by Miriam Toews
From the publisher: Fight Night is told in the unforgettable voice of Swiv, a nine-year-old living in Toronto with her pregnant mother, who is raising Swiv while caring for her own elderly, frail, yet extraordinarily lively mother. When Swiv is expelled from school, Grandma takes on the role of teacher and gives her the task of writing to Swiv’s absent father about life in the household during the last trimester of the pregnancy. In turn, Swiv gives Grandma an assignment: to write a letter to “Gord,” her unborn grandchild (and Swiv’s soon-to-be brother or sister). “You’re a small thing,” Grandma writes to Gord, “and you must learn to fight.”
Miriam Toews, Canadian author of renowned novels including All My Puny Sorrows and…