Review of The Consequences by Niña Weijers, trans. by Hester Velmans

I’m delighted to have this review up on The Common. It took longer to write than I had anticipated, in part, because every time I returned to this book, there was more to say about it. So many fascinating layers!

Outstanding books often have a way of catching the reader by surprise, one insight, one unexpected narrative shift at a time. Niña Weijers, a debut novelist from the Netherlands, begins her book as a character study of her protagonist, Minnie Panis. Minnie is a conceptual artist of growing international reputation, whose career has been built on acts of public self-abnegation.  With each turn of the page, Weijers extends her subject and thematic reach, keeping her protagonist in focus while exploring contemporary art, mysticism, Mayan beliefs, and early childhood development (among other themes) to enrich our understanding of Minnie’s character and the forces that govern her life.

Minnie’s story is told by an omniscient narrator who documents Minnie’s history of “disappearances”: moments of near death and of extreme out of body experiences, all of which Hester Velmans, an NEA fellowship recipient for translation, has rendered to strong effect in plain and unpretentious language. The prologue introduces us to Minnie in February, 2012 when she falls through a frozen lake in Amsterdam. This is described as a deliberate gesture—not a suicide attempt, but rather a Houdini-like disappearing act, Minnie’s third. But why such a radical performance? The ensuing narrative leads us on an investigation. . . .

Read the rest of this review here.

 

Новая рецензия на Хлоп-страну

Московский автор и критик Данила Давыдов написал рецензию на мою книжку Хлоп-страна!

Говоря об этих рассказах как о психологической прозе мы не удаляемся от истины, но делаем ее более скудной, поскольку само вышеприведенное определение можно применить решительно к чему угодно. Важнее описать контуры того мира, который создает Гренец. Перед нами множество персонажей, женщин и мужчин, эмигрантов той или иной степени адаптированности к новым условиям, причем отнюдь не только (э)мигрантов из постсоветского пространства, – но и вполне местных, чаще молодых людей, но и зрелых, даже пожилых, и малых детей. Этот мультикультуральный и очень насыщенный гулом присутствующих «я» со всем разнообразием их опыта не производит впечатления ни утопии, ни антиутопии. Часто это пластмассовый мир, отчужденный от человека или, напротив, удобно-консьюмеристский, но бывает что и романтический, и насыщенный возвышенными смыслами, порой даже безбашенно-контркультурный.

Читать рецензию целиком тут.

А тут можно купить книжку.

Janine Kovac’s Spinning

Janine Kovac weaves the stories about premature birth of her twin boys with experiences from her professional ballet-dancing career with the difficult path of learning to write about these experiences — and the result is a very effective and moving narrative, and a kind of a writers’ guide that might do more good than lots of more technical craft manuals.

Leaning against the bathroom door, I’m trying to breathe and at the same time I’m trying not to breathe. I watch myself from above–a woman with dark hair in a light green hospital gown and an enormous belly stretched taut. I can’t see my face; I can only see my back. There’s a tug–as if gravity is pulling me to the ground, reaching inside, and sucking life out.

Everyone thinks that an out-of-body experience means watching yourself from the rafters. That’s just the visual perspective. There’s also the feeling of being deeply rooted inside your vital organs, as if your heart were the center of the universe. In the same breath you observe from the outside and feel from within.

Check out Janine’s website and buy the book.

Рецензия Елены Крюковой,”Главное — подлинность”

Поступила ещё одна рецензия на мою книгу Хлоп-страна. Автор Елена Крюкова:

Перед нами книга рассказов, которую можно было бы очертить одним широким штрихом, описать одной словесной формулой — если бы это было воистину возможно: улей бытия.
Рассказы эти, предельно живые, вылетают из улья, как пчелы.
И летят, куда хотят.
И собирают мед больших смыслов с цветов большой — глазом не охватить — одновременно и подвластной, и неподвластной анализу человека жизни.

Читать дальше на сайте Читальный зал.

Рецензия на “Хлоп-страну” в журнале “Знамя”

Если Бедная Девушка Беломлинской все еще живет Россией, то Травка Ольги Гренец уже давно от нее отпочковалась, и то, что происходит на родине, ее интересует все меньше и меньше. В первой части книги, где автор еще дает какую-то связь между новой и старой родиной, изредка встречаются рассказы, в которых сквозит «среднерусская тоска». Например, в рассказе «Сливки и сахар», исподволь, между строк, дана картина гремящей где-то войны, совершенно не стыкующейся с описанием мелких мещанских привычек посетителей аэропорта. Это, пожалуй, один из самых удачных рассказов Ольги, построенных на эллипсисе, на недосказанности.  …

читать целиком рецензию Ольги Аникиной. “Счастьеведение”,  журнал “Знамя” 2017, №9.

 

Mike Smith’s And There Was Evening, and There Was Morning

Last year, when I participated, in a small way, with the launch of WTAW Press, I got a chance to read the manuscripts in draft form. This month, holding the two published books in my hand was a strange experience: an excitement coupled with worry, How will they hold up? Will the binding solidify the beauty I had glimpsed in the original writing? Will it bring forward the flaws?

Mike Smith’s book, And There Was Evening, and There Was Morning is a memoir of originalterrible loss: the author’s first wife dies of cancer shortly after the birth of their second child. The book is a collection of essays, structured in such a way that in each piece, in each chapter, we return to this tragedy, over and over again. Fifteen times over we are with Mike and the kids, Virgina and Langston, losing Emily. Other sad, scary, happy, and funny things happen in the book. Mike meets his second wife, they marry and move together to a new town in a new state. His stepdaughter, coincidentally also named Emily, goes through a bout with cancer. But oh boy oh boy. Turn the page, and there’s his beloved Emily, dying again.

Difficult reading? No, not at all. It’s a love story. The book reads like a love poem, on a single gulp of breath. Mike’s tendency to introspection, his openness to Emily and her world and the desire to continue his engagement with her interests and concerns, his ability to converse with her work after her death, is so endearing that from the very first sentences I want to know Mike, I want to spend time with him, I find in myself the resources to stay with him through his grief and to go there, into the hospital room, to be with Emily, in her final months, weeks, and days, over and over again. Emily Arndt was a scholar and I find it a solace that a book that she wrote, a revised version of her dissertation, has been published and can be found out there.

I’ll quote the first sentences from Mike Smith’s memoir, to give a sense of its rhythm and what I mean about it being a love story:

My first wife Emily and I were married for ten years. We met when she walked into the small bookstore where I worked and applied for a job. The manager must have hired her that very afternoon because we shared the following Saturday evening and Sunday morning turnaround shifts. It was fitting that we grew to know one another surrounded by books.

Thank you Peg Alford Pursell and WTAW Press for publishing this. Thank you, Mike, for sharing this story. Thank you also for all of your wonderful insight into story and character and the willingness to push and push on a thread of thought.

Gunnhild Øyehaug’s Knots, Review

I recommend Gunnhild Øyehaug’s short story collection Knots, out from FSG this summer.

It felt foreordained to open this short story collection by the Norwegian writer Gunnhild Øyehaug and find IKEA on the first page, as in: “…park the car outside IKEA.” IKEA, now based in the Netherlands, originated in Sweden, but to many foreigners, it personifies Scandinavia—pleasant and unthreatening. “Blah, how boring,” was my first thought. Then, trying to stave off disappointment at being welcomed by the all-too-familiar global brand, I told myself, “Well, I guess IKEA did start somewhere nearby. Perhaps, Scandinavians have a particular attachment to clean lines.” (Nervous laughter.) I know that stereotyping is a form of blindness; in practice, my desire for novelty trips me up and leads to overly broad generalizations. Like a tourist, I had to remind myself to check my expectations at the airport.

Gunnhild Øyehaug’s Norway begins, indeed, with the comfortably familiar. . . .

Read the rest of my review on The Common.