Suspended Sentences, by Patrick Modiano

I look forward to each year’s announcement of the Nobel Prize in Literature not in the hope that the members of the Swedish Academy will validate my tastes but that they’ll introduce me to authors with whom I’m unfamiliar. As critics and supporters have noted, for every Alice Munro and Mario Vargas Llosa who receives the prize, the Academy also bestows its honor on writers many readers have never heard of, such as China’s Mo Yan, the 2012 winner, or J.M.G. Le Clezio, the French laureate from 2008. Continue reading “Suspended Sentences, by Patrick Modiano”

The Wisdom of José Saramago

In 1953, 31-year-old José Saramago, then an unknown author, submitted Skylight, a novel, to a Portuguese publishing house. (The novel appears in English translation this month for the first time. My review will appear on Bookreporter’s site soon.) He received no response. He was so distraught by the publisher’s dismissive attitude that he didn’t write again for 20 years. Continue reading “The Wisdom of José Saramago”

What’s Not to Like: Debut Fiction and Unlikable Characters

In my latest essay for the Los Angeles Review of Books, “What’s Not to Like,” I reviewed two recent debut novels, We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas and A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing by Eimear McBride, and discussed them in the broader context of the recent debate about likable vs. unlikable characters. Continue reading “What’s Not to Like: Debut Fiction and Unlikable Characters”

Interview: “Bone Clocks” author David Mitchell

One of the most inventive writers of the past twenty years is David Mitchell. Not many authors have attempted in only six novels the range of literary styles Mitchell has tackled. Wait, what am I saying: Not many authors have attempted in a single book the range of literary styles Mitchell gave us in Cloud Atlas, among them a mid-19th century tale of a notary from San Francisco sailing to New Zealand, a mystery in which a gossip columnist learns of corruption and cover-ups at a California nuclear power plant, a comic story in which a vanity press publisher of titles such as a mobster’s Knuckle Sandwich is incarcerated in a sadistic nursing home, and a futuristic tale of fabricants who are bred to be slaves for the purebloods in the corpocracy of Nea So Copros. Continue reading “Interview: “Bone Clocks” author David Mitchell”

All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

I have just finished a novel I expect will be one of my favorites of 2014. All the Light We Cannot See, the second novel by Anthony Doerr, is an extraordinary work of fiction. Part of the wonder of this beautifully written book is that Doerr has found a fresh way of telling a story we’ve heard many times before: teenagers from opposite sides of World War II see beyond the conflict to find common ground. Continue reading “All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr”

My Favorite Books from 2013

Here’s one of the most pleasant dilemmas I can think of: The year in fiction was so good that you have dozens of titles you could single out for praise as among the year’s best. I’ve spent the past couple of days rereading the notes I wrote for more than forty books. Most of them were titles I reviewed for Bookreporter, but some were books I read for fun and thought so highly of that I needed to jot down my reactions. It has been a delightful couple of days. Every year should be like 2013. Continue reading “My Favorite Books from 2013”