The Untouchable by John Banville

When Banville is writing at his best, he tends to reminisce about people and places rather than tell a story. In The Untouchable (Knopf, 668 pages), Victor Maskell, an Irishman living in England, becomes a spy for the Soviets during World War II. The book begins when the elderly Sir Maskell’s secret past has been revealed […]

Guidelines for literary fiction reviewers

Here is some guidance that (we hope) will help you write the kind of review that will be useful to Dactyl Review readers and writers alike, no matter what you think of the book. Literary fiction reviews should focus on writing style. Reviewers should spend less time discussing the characters personalities, and more time analyzing […]

Shadowplay by Norman Lock

Shadowplay (Ellipsis Press, 137 pages) by Norman Lock, is the 2010 Dactyl Foundation Literary Fiction Award recipient. Lock’s novella is a dense fable, mixing magic realism with self-reflexivity. The entire story is given to us in miniature at the beginning, such that the novella itself is really a constant retelling–a folding and refolding–rather than an […]

Mefisto by John Banville

Gabriel Swan is the Faustian hero of Mefisto (Godine Press, pages 233). He is a savant mathematician, with talents that will make him out-of-place among uneducated poor Irish. With a desire to understand the truth of the universe, he believes that numbers will help him sense some “larger” pattern tying everything together.  But as in […]

The Suburban Swindle by Jackie Corley

With The Suburban Swindle (So New Books, 99 pages) Jackie Corley delivers a collection of memoir-like stories about drunk, pissed-off, reckless, late-teen and twenty-something Jersey suburbanites fucking up relationships and getting the shit beat out of them. The narrative voice, sensibly consistent throughout the collection and rising to a kind of tortured literariness, wedges a […]

The Names by Don DeLillo

DeLillo surely kept a journal while living in Athens and visiting various places in the Middle East and India. He noted scenes, described the climate and vegetation, philosophized on the locals then published his journal as the novel, The Names (Vintage, 352 pages), after he added a “plot” about a cult that murderers people for the […]

Death with Interruptions by Jose Saramago

As a reviewer, there are two things you’ll want to know about me before bothering to read further. I only like literary fiction, and I only like literary fiction that’s a bit “difficult,” in one way or another, style or theme, preferably both. A good theme for me might include controversial social issues, human paradoxes, […]

Salvation and Other Disasters by Josip Novakovich

[Review adapted from an author introduction read at Dactyl Foundation October 2002 ] Despite the fact that Novakovich may write about what he knows — immigrant life or life in Croatia —  these stories not the  so-called “slice of life fiction” that is considered the epitome of realism these days. They are concerned with an […]

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

With all books, there is a difference between author and narrator. Sometimes the difference is slight, sometimes great. Omniscient narrators tend to reflect the author’s stance about the story more than, say, first-person narrators, which often strike poses very unlike the authors’, excepting the case of confessional “fiction” (which is not actually fictional). At first […]

Black Dogs, by Ian McEwan

Black Dogs: A Novel (Nan A. Talese, 149 pages) is a skillfully written novel on an interesting and profound topic. McEwan does a wonderful job describing June, an eccentric old woman, the narrator’s mother-in-law. He also handles what could be a very artificial story device in a reasonably natural way. The idea of the book […]