From Gone with the Mind.
So many of our contributors brought out new books this year—Amie Barrodale, Emma Cline, Peter Cole, Rachel Cusk, Kristin Dombek, Garth Greenwell, Benjamin Hale, Fanny Howe, Ishion Hutchinson, Alexandra Kleeman, Karl Ove Knausgaard, April Ayers Lawson, Nathalie Léger, Ben Lerner, Jonathan Lethem, Mark Leyner, Sarah Manguso, Luke Mogelson, Mary Ruefle, David Salle, Brenda Shaughnessy, Zadie Smith, Karen Solie, David Szalay … I worry I’m forgetting some, but these are the ones on my shelf. After these, my favorite new books of 2016 were probably a couple of reissues from New York Review Classics. First there was Henry Green’s masterpiece, Loving, about servants on an Irish estate during World War II; then there was Sybille Bedford’s multigenerational saga, A Legacy. First published in 1956, this is the story of two German families—one, rich Berlin Jews; the other, country aristocrats—whose fates intertwine in the years before World War I. If you like any two of the following—The Radetzky March, The Hare With Amber Eyes, or Love in a Cold Climate—then A Legacy should be on your short list. Things get a tiny bit slow at the very end, only because Bedford seems to lose interest in the plot. What she cares about is scenes, character, and atmosphere. She is also very good at food: “The sea-urchins came heaped in a great armorial pile, sable and violet, tiered on their burnished quills, like the unexplained detail on the hill by the thistles and the hermitage of a quattrocento background, exposing now inside each severed shell the pattern of a tender sea-star.” And that’s just the first course. —Lorin Stein
With such wildness going on around us, it’s beginning to feel like an even more difficult task than usual to make writing equal to the gargantuan thing we keep melancholically calling reality. The essays by Mark Greif in Against Everything are a rare example of patient, complicated clarity; while I hope someone is translating Nous by the French novelist and philosopher Tristan Garcia, a book that brilliantly examines what we mean when we use that pernicious and inescapable word we. I guess in the end it just comes down to some kind of accuracy of voice, like the disillusioned, festive thinking on display, in very different ways, in Frederick Seidel’s Widening Income Inequality and Maureen McLane’s Mz N: the Serial. Or maybe there’s no need to expect the contemporary to be equal to the contemporary … The woozy inventions on display in Clarice Lispector’s Complete Stories (I know it came out last year, but still …) seem more and more alarming and persuasive. —Adam Thirlwell Read More