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5 book reviews you need to read this week ‹Literary Hub

5 book reviews you need to read this week ‹Literary Hub

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Our bounty of brilliant reviews this week includes Alan Light at James Gavins George Michael: A lifeJames Wood at Miranda Seymour’s I lived here onceMiguel Salazar on Ingrid Rojas Contreras’The man who could move cloudsLily Meyer at Imogen Binnie’s Nevadaand Merve Emre on the fiction of Cristina Rivera Garza.

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New and selected stories_Cristina Rivera Garza

“In Rivera Garza’s fiction, quests for coveted bodies do not destroy cities. They destroy the identities – man, woman – worshiped by rulers… The mystery and ambiguity that surrounds Rivera Garza’s fiction caresses both gender and genre, words with a common etymology. IN Iliac Crest, gothic nuances to noir, noir to fable, with fable as the climax in the metafiction valued by Nabokov, Calvino and Borges … This disturbing boundaries evokes different terms to describe Rivera Garza’s work as a writer and as a professor of Spanish-speaking studies at the University of Houston: feminist, queer, trans, posthuman, and – the concept emphasized by the MacArthur Foundation, which awarded her its ‘genius’ scholarship in 2020 – transnational. Sometimes it seems that the will to place her fiction reveals the very evasions it depends on. But these concepts help to dig out the political imagination of her sensuous border crossings, and the national story behind her vanishing aesthetics… The primary tension in Rivera Garza’s fiction – between the unruly intensity of sexual desire and the political discipline of the body – is at. it is most concentrated in the latest translation of her work, New and selected stories Vite Knowing and touching: these are the axes that Rivera Garza’s fiction is about, with a certain predictable stability. Yet her unanimity is offset by the lure of her cracked forms, her gnome sentences and her adventurous surroundings … The indomitable energy of sexual desire transplants flesh on the legs of Rivera Garza’s characters. In fact, they are not so much human beings as exposed nerve endings, a supernatural response to the presence of others. “

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–Merve Emre on the fiction of Cristina Rivera Garza (New Yorkers)

George Michael: A life

“Such stories appear again and again in James Gavin’s captivating, depressing biography George Michael: A life– acts of generosity followed by manifestations of petulance, creative ambition soured to halfway compromise. Michael appears as a gifted, tragic and annoying character, whose tortured relationship with his sexuality plunged him into artistic confusion and self-sabotage … Gavin, who has written acclaimed biographies of the troubled singers (is there another type?) Peggy Lee, Chet Baker and Lena Horne, offer a thorough and well-rounded view of Michael’s artistry and personal chaos. His mastery of modern pop may be a little shaky … but he plumber the nuances of Michael’s soul-bending vocal performances … George Michael dreamed of celebrities and saw that dream turn into a nightmare. And he knew all too well that it was pain and guilt that drove his hollow faith in fame as salvation. “

–Alan Light on James Gavins George Michael: A life (The New York Times Book Review)

I used to live here once: The Haunted Life of Jean Rhys Cover

“Rhys’ heroines are imprisoned by poverty, but this brutal economy also frees them up in cynical freedom. They walk the streets of the city as fearlessly, if not quite as safely, as the strollers of Flaubert and Baudelaire. Why should they not stop by a movie theater or have a drink alone? There is a dark joy in Rhys ‘details, in the reportage news that her fictions bring… Seymour powerfully evokes a world that Rhys never really escaped from, one of the shameful offspring of prejudice, abuse and abuse, complicity… Rhys’ writing is drawn absolutely mercilessly to scenes of recognition and recoil, to intricate relationships of identity and power. “Like a hook fits an eye” – the very limitlessness of her Dominican world, the erotic closeness to black and white, paradoxically reinforces the electrical divide between borders… In 1990, Jean Rhys was the subject of a huge and eagerly engaged biography of Carole Anger. Seymour respects Angier’s performance, but discreetly takes a different approach. Angier treats Rhys possessively and pedagogically, as if he is psychoanalyzing a brilliant and difficult family relationship. Seymour prefers to trust the story, not the narrator. Angier was inclined to examine any motivation; Seymour is at times happy to leave his motif magnificently inexplicable, excused by the redemption of the narrative … Above all, Seymour breaks with Angier by emphasizing the way Rhys’ heroines are not just alter egos; if Rhys did not fully develop an autonomous self, she developed absolutely autonomous works of art … True to form, Rhys regretted that the celebrity Wide Sargasso Seabrought her was burdensome and overwhelming, but Seymour’s biography is a testament to how triumphantly, against odds inflicted and self-inflicted, she succeeded in arranging her ‘little life’ into a writer’s life whose dimensions we still happily measure. She lacked hope, but never courage. “

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–James Wood on Miranda Seymours I used to live here once: The Haunted Life of Jean Rhys (New Yorkers)

The man who could move clouds

“When she examined her ancestry while she was there, she picked up a book so old that it disintegrated in her hands, leaving nothing but dust … Rojas Contreras instead relies on oral history, and finally embraces its messy, uncontrollable and incoherent nature. The story jumps in time, from 1984 to 2007 to 1993 to the colonial era. Family members are introduced as adults, later shown as teenagers, then as equals. Spirits lurk around every corner. There are spectral treasure hunts, violent men, alcoholic ghosts and shapely witches; paramilitaries set fire to a family farm, bomb blasts become a normal occurrence and an uncle is kidnapped by guerrillas four different times, these are the kind of stories that would have made Gabriel García Márquez rub his hands together forced into a collective identity of clairvoyants and spiritualists – beginning with Nono – which she has put together from the dissolved fragments of hen no. own family past. In the process, she has written a spellbinding and genre-defying ancestral story. “

–Miguel Salazar at Ingrid Rojas Contreras’ The man who could move clouds (The New York Times Book Review)

Nevada_Imogen Binnie

“It was among the first contemporary novels to treat a trans woman’s story in a complicated, nuanced way, without relying on transition to tell momentum or treat it as a guaranteed happy ending. Instead, Binnie casually refers to Maria’s transition as a ‘very special episode’. ‘, and then lets her protagonist avoid mentioning it again … Nevada is as much about class and work as it is about transness and gender. Of course, the two are thoroughly intertwined, both because money affects the transition … and because any honest hint of a life, real or fiction, will include class. Nevadasucceeds in telling Maria’s specific story precisely because Binnie notices the details and atrocities of her work. Nevada is explicit about this context… Empathy is a worthy human value, but giving it can often feel better than receiving it. Nevada is not about the reader, that is, it is not about the giver. It is about Maria, who is not interested in anyone’s empathy – and yet she also tries to show her own… Questions like these are the basis for solidarity. It is impossible to truly understand what the struggle for a better life for workers – or for transgender people – means without first acknowledging the conditions in their lives as they are. Nevada is both a good and an important book precisely for that reason: Binnie lets readers see directly the world Maria lives in, complete with the limitations of a painterly, poorly paid job. It’s easy, once we’ve done that, to understand how badly she needs something more. “

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–Lily Meyer at Imogen Binnie’s Nevada (The Atlantic)

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