The Sojourn by Andrew Krivak

There will, unfortunately, always be a need for books about war, and this need takes many forms. In The Sojourn (Bellevue Literary Press, 191 pages), Andrew Krivak successfully defends the parish of the novel. Although the harsh imperatives of history require much sifting of facts, places and victims—synthesis and hindsight are essential, as part of our troubled species’ perverse CV—the novel, with its relentless subjectivity and its bloody-minded insistence on the plight of individuals, brings its own kind of necessary testimony. Continue reading

The Double Life of Alfred Buber by David Schmahmann

(Permanent, 197 pages) Who is Alfred Buber? In starkest terms, he is a respected Boston lawyer who falls in love with a Thai sex worker named Nok. Not surprisingly, they do not live happily ever after. This is not a book of neat resolutions.

But it is a story full of interesting ruminations, which are often amusing, sometimes provocative, and consistently engrossing. Narrated in the first person, the novel moves deftly between past and present and provides a nuanced portrait of loneliness. Continue reading

Love and Summer by William Trevor

At the age of 81, William Trevor offered his 40th, or 44th book—something along those lines, depending on how you count the work, mainly fiction, novels, novellas and story collections, with some drama, nonfiction, a children’s book and editing interspersed. This latest novel, Love and Summer (Penguin, 2009, 211 pages), is not his best but it is good, in some respects excellent, even singular. Continue reading

Vestments by John Reimringer

One of the pleasures of literary fiction is its fluidity, how it engages both the physical world and mental states, moving back and forth in a manner that not only reproduces the experience of being alive, but adds to it. The book in hand is less a mirror than an additional, highly sensitive appendage of the self.

John Reimringer’s Vestments (Milkweed, 407 pages) highlights the process by staking out two sharply contrasting worlds: the earthy, often violent family of James Dressler, a young man growing up in blue-collar Saint Paul, and James’ calling as a Roman Catholic priest, Continue reading

How to Survive a Natural Disaster by Margaret Hawkins

It’s unfortunate that “adult entertainment” has become synonymous with porn, because there’s a shortage of the real thing. By that, I mean books and films for grown-ups. Not only about sex, but about the multitude of other concerns that mature people care about. These people know that there is more to life than celebrities, shopping and getting skinny. Or having to choose between zombies and vampires.

Margaret Hawkins’ How To Survive a Natural Disaster (Permanent Press, 199 pages) confidently embraces this fact and offers a literary novel that is both Continue reading