“They slowed down Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony so it stretched over 24 hours,” Gabbert writes: “The effect was of a continual climbing, with no resolution – just an ever-building terror, the slowest imaginable scream. In a state of heightened time, everything reduces to fear, a sublime fear. If life has any meaning, it comes at the end.”
— Brian Pera reviews The Self Unstable by Elisa Gabbert
“The ideal reader for Amy Rowland’s The Transcriptionist is stranded in public, waiting. I don’t mean to suggest that this novel is light, or lacks rigor, but simply that distraction—people milling about, talking, laughing, shouting—accents this book like music.”
— Benjamin Rybeck reviews The Transcriptionist by Amy Rowland
“If Richard Haddon, the British artist whose marital struggles occupy Courtney Maum’s provocative debut novel, I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You, played the board game LIFE, and somehow got to hopscotch over the plastic hills to the best-colored squares without ever spinning the wheel of chance, his real life still would be better. An experimental artist with great aesthetic freedom, married to a beautiful and wealthy French woman with whom he’s conceived a charming little girl, he should want for nothing. He should be endlessly grateful for his life. But perhaps keeping too close to the male cliché of perpetual dissatisfaction, Maum lets her hero stray. His seven-month-long affair with an American woman is at first a titillating secret, an eye-opening jaunt with a brazenly sexual Yankee named Lisa. The disaster that unfolds when Anne-Laure, Richard’s wife, uncovers a pile of Lisa’s scented letters sets up a fairly predictable narrative arc of domestic exile, desperate attempts at redemption (involving travel and a great loss of dignity), and, ultimately, reconciliation. Maum has not reinvented the centuries-old marriage plot that’s the cornerstone of both real and fictional societies. Her novel, though, does explore something new, and perhaps unique to our modern condition: our inability to withstand the quotidian, the mundane, the average.”
“Almost everyone in the novel disapproves of Carmen’s lowbrow affect and career as a physical trainer. She doesn’t care about art, or value the Posts intellectually, and therefore she is treated as a philistine. Straub cleverly pits the family’s snobbish attitudes toward Carmen against Bobby’s poor treatment of his girlfriend, which raises the question: what good is an intellect if you have a skewed moral compass?”
— Kim Winternheimer reviews The Vacationers by Emma Straub
“I was in too much shock to photograph Miller being carried away,” Gilbertson writes, “but if I had taken pictures, they would have depicted a crumpled, dying man… Those kinds of images show the horror and repugnance of war… But they don’t speak to the larger truth: war takes people away from those who love them. I came home. Billy Miller didn’t. I needed to photograph his absence.”
Nathan Webster reviews Bedrooms of the Fallen by Ashley Gilbertson.

“The personal enthusiasm of Father Junípero”, Royce added, “who from 1769 until his death in 1784 was at the head of mission affairs, has earned for him since a great popular reputation for ability and saintliness, a reputation made permanent by the biography that came from the pen of his friend Palóu. And about Serra’s high worth as a man and a Christian there is indeed no controversy among those who know his career.” Controversy there may be in the 130 years since Royce wrote those words—due in no small part to Serra’s aggressive efforts to convert the Native Californians to Catholicism—but even today, Serra looms large in the popular imagination of California history. His is one of the two statues California sent to Washington, D.C., to represent the state in the National Statuary Hall on Capitol Hill (the other is of Ronald Reagan), and his name can still be found on schools and street signs, his statue in parks and in front of the very missions he built.

Nick Taylor’s new novel, Father Junípero’s Confessor, depicts convincingly the sheer willpower, the superior intellect, and the overbearing and manipulative personality of this missionary from Majorca.

“There’s a strange, meandering logic driving Smith Henderson’s big-hearted debut of a novel, Fourth of July Creek. Those names both seem quirkily off-kilter: is that really his first name, and his last name? (One imagines the consternation of grade-school teachers coming to his spot in a roll call.) And what’s the Fourth of July got to do with a creek?”
“The editing is purposefully choppy and usually serves its purpose in making a pretty film look more raw and less burnished. At times, though, especially during the soccer scenes, navigating the conversations of various groups of characters leads to their placement in the physical space coming across as unintentionally stagey. “Let’s get out of here,” in at least two scenes seems to be addressed to the editor rather than the characters.”
The Rumpus Review of Palo Alto by Joe Sacksteder.
“A new literary movement has struggled out of the muck, stretched its legs, and howled into the air. It’s called “eco-fabulism,” anointed by a panel at the 2014 AWP Conference (titled “Fabulist Fiction for a Hot Planet!”) and re-anointed (or extra-anointed?) by Matt Bell in an interview with Sonora Review. Eco-fabulism refers to a group of texts that explore, in one way or another, mankind’s destructive tendencies regarding nature—a literary movement that, unfortunately, seems unlikely to fade out anytime soon. I write “unfortunately” not because the texts—which include Ben Marcus’s The Flame Alphabet and Cormac McCarthy’s The Road—are bad, but because, given the intractable problems of global warming, eco-fabulism seems like a type of fiction that could reflect American society for a long, sad while.”