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FICTION: What Do You Want and Why Do You Love Me?

Luckily, I’ve known Donald Breckenridge for years, so I was able to plunge into his new novel, You Are Here, and ignore the off-putting remarks in the promotional copy. This material states, for example, that the novel “follows a dozen characters…But the main story here is Breckenridge’s virtuoso prose.”

FICTION: Hugs Last Too Long

Pasha Malla’s thirteen-story collection showcases a series of intimate relationships. They’re not banal boy/girl stories, but rather they play with man/woman, boy/girl, snake/boy, girl/chimp, and machine/man, among other combinations.


Wonder is the fluorescent promise of a peepshow; it is the Metropolitan Museum’s formal tumble of stairs; it is the vault-like entrance to the Mary Boone Gallery; it is stage lights, circus tents, and velvet ropes. Wonder is the result of all that distances us from ourselves by the “otherness” that awaits us behind the curtain, the display glass, our clothing and our skin.

POETRY: High Noon

Susan Wheeler’s Assorted Poems and Ron Slate’s The Great Wave are examples of books published by accomplished writers who find themselves at, or just after, the midpoint of their very different careers. Wheeler, the author of four well-received books of poetry (Bag o’ Diamonds, 1993; Smokes, 1998; Source Codes, 2001; Ledger, 2005) and the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships (the Witter Bynner Prize from the Academy of American Poets, the Norma Farber First Book Award from the Poetry Society of America, and Guggenheim and New York Foundation for the Arts fellowships) has spent the past twenty years living, writing, and teaching in the poetry epicenter of New York.

FICTION: The New Global Novel of Disorientation

Tawada’s novel is a distinguished contribution to the unique paranoid style of the new European novel. While Americans continue to write about identity in a world of mostly established meanings, Europeans are after much bigger game: the meaning of identity itself in a world bedeviled by simulacra and images, shoddy and glamorous.

MEMOIR: A Bomb in One Hand, Shelter in the Other

This memoir-infused narrative poem, written over two decades by Iraqi poet Dunya Mikhail, provides a unique reading experience. The first part of the book, written between 1991 and 1994, envelopes the Iran and the Gulf wars—“two wars spanned by a suspension bridge”—in dreamscapes, spiritual invocations, scriptural rewriting and myth-telling; devices that veil her commentary on the Hussein administration and the Baath party.


Your dictionary becomes a box of Godivas, as Gary Indiana sends you pell mell to look up old (forgotten) friends and new. These collected essays that were published in Artforum, Bookforum, The Village Voice, and other cultural life support systems, are uniformly a pleasure, each one a delectable, umber treat.


To read the story of Odell Deefus, the simple-minded hero of Torsten Krol’s Callisto, is to contemplate the atrocities of the past eight years: the hysteria of the war on terror, the paranoia of domestic surveillance, and the crimes of Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay. Oh, and did I mention the novel is a comedy?


The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2009

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