“Full disclosure: I am a university professor. I have written many letters of recommendation, all of which I keep tidily organized in a file on my laptop. These letters represent an enormous investment of my time and creative energy — an investment that often seems unacknowledged, even (especially?) by the people for whom I write. I also have a decade’s experience writing letters to department chairs, admissions offices, colleagues, grad school chums… in short, I have written all of the kinds of letters that appear in this novel. Jay Fitger, the protagonist, takes far more liberties with his letters than I would dare. But the letters are none the less authentic-feeling, and the way their details, asides, PS’s, and references cohere into a picture of his life and his university reveals something very true about what is becoming of the arts and humanities, about the sort of men who possess secure positions within institutions of higher ed, and about the precarious situations of just about everyone else, including the students.”
Amy Letter reviews Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher, a novel made up entirely of letters of recommendation.

In the introduction to his short story collection Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, Haruki Murakami writes, “To put it in the simplest possible terms, I find writing novels a challenge, writing short stories a joy.” After the epic 1Q84, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage must have felt like a joy. Where 1Q84 was big and deliberately paced, bringing its two protagonists together slowly, over nearly 1,000 pages, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki is brief, light on its feet and spare with descriptions. Where 1Q84 focused on many lives full of strange mysteries, Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki focuses on the strange mysteries of a single life. It is Murakami’s most emotionally earnest and straightforward work since Sputnik Sweetheart.

Jonathan Russell Clark reviews Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki And His Years Of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami.
“A thematic companion piece that’s woven with fascinating anecdotes, “some obscure, suppressed, declassified, wonderful, and curious facts,” and interview subjects, “NASA Redux” (2009) affirms the cultural worth of the endangered organization’s “Star Trek-like” idealism. Signing off with a trip aboard the G-Force One and the delightful experience of (hungover) weightlessness, the essay asserts the value of wonder in general (and its effect on the suddenly floating passengers: “I could move in any direction. All was calm and effortless. And to an astonishing degree—astonishing largely because the understanding was so matter-of-fact, as though I’d begun to internalize my own understated Neil Armstrong—this sort of comfort with wonder felt like the goal of both science and religion.”)”
“I slowly formed a style by watching my role models. My mother made pancakes in black silk negligees and high heels. My high school English teacher wore grey linen sacks and red lipstick with a pageboy haircut. My older sister wore cuffed denim shorts and sprayed her bangs. My high school nemeses wore spaghetti-strapped tank tops and short shorts. Bjork and her mini buns. Joni Mitchell and her lengths. I wasn’t any of these women, and yet this was the raw material from which I assembled my own look, either in alliance or defiance. What I ended up doing was wearing 1940s industrial pencil suits and eventually shaving my head. I did what I could with what I had and where I was.”
— Anisse Gross reviews Women In Clothes
“The power structure ought to be very simple: the storyteller possesses the tale, and imparts it to an audience. One has the original, and the other creates, upon hearing it, a copy in their own minds. In a way, this is how a community is formed: through a sharing of stories.

But the dynamics of an interrogation result in a complete power shift: a story is no longer something to be shared or accepted, but something to be coerced, questioned, tested, and enslaved. With power now located in the interrogator’s hands, how can the speaker redeem himself? Tell the truth, or convince the interrogator. It will never be clear whether those two goals are identical in execution, or mutually exclusive.”
— Jeffrey Zuckerman reviews Guantanamo by Frank Smith
“This question is the subject of Simon Critchley’s thin volume Bowie. Critchley, a philosopher who teaches at The New School and moderates the New York Times‘s philosophy column “The Stone,” may seem an unlikely source for an exegesis of Bowie’s art, but he stakes his claim in the book’s first line: “no person has given me greater pleasure throughout my life than David Bowie.” Critchley first saw the star in a career-defining performance on the British TV show Top of the Pops, where Bowie sang “Starman” while sporting deep orange hair and a catsuit of many colors. He was, Critchley writes, “At once cocky and vulnerable. His face full of sly understanding—a door to a world of unknown pleasures.””
“This echoes the central theme of many of Gonzales’ books, which are, at heart, studies of trauma and resilience. Those who survived, whether they walked into the golden Iowa cornfields with a few scratches, or fought their way back through months of treatment for burns and broken bones, were forced to live dramatically different lives than the ones they’d known before the crash. There was surviving the crash, and then, as Gonzales would put it, there was surviving survival.”
— Rachel Rose reviews Flight 232 by Laurence Gonzales
“In “Demons,” the story in which an Indian woman in the United States goes about her days while her husband’s dead body lies on the floor of the living room, Parameswaran gives us a new version of the immigrant experience. Savitri, our protagonist, is not scared of driving in the United States. She is not conscious of her accent or the smell of the spices from the daal simmering on the stove. When her husband’s dead body is lying in the middle of her living room, Doug Naples, the neighbor, knocks on the door. Savitri’s husband’s legs are splayed on the ground within view of the front door. Doug notices, and asks, and Savitri responds with confidence.

“She said, ‘Ravi is doing yoga. Yoga, Doug. That is, you know, one of the things we do in India. A very good thing.’””
“There is, I think, a transactional element inherent in fiction. A reader will only buy a certain amount of clumsy explanation before she needs something in return, something else to compel her attention, something like a plot or a convincing relationship. Without the drama of the human experience, the reader is left holding pages of rules and regulations that are roughly as interesting as a Dungeons & Dragons rulebook (which can be quite interesting, but only if the reader is planning to actually play the game). Ornate systems of mythical histories and commandments tend to lack the meat and movement of successful fiction—that is why people read The Silmarillion or Quidditch Through the Ages after having read The Lord of the Rings and the Harry Potter series, not the other way around.”
“I found myself thinking of Harriet Welsch as I turned these supple pages and admired the range of enjambments, wrap-around lines, numbered fragments, and assorted jottings that comprise this surprising and provocative series of proems. (No, it isn’t a typo—proems!) I also admired how slyly the book could be dropped into a handbag or pliant pocket, how smoothly withdrawn again at a moment’s notice. No matter where you enter this text, I promise you will find Cooper’s musings and revelations engrossing.”