“Cartography as quixotic undertaking is also a theme of the indelible first novel of Belén Gopegui, a Madrid-based writer. The Scale of Maps, owing partly to its short, honed chapters, is brisk, taut storytelling. Its protagonist-narrator, Sergio Prim, describes his unusual love affair with another cartographer, his troubles at work, and the metaphysical debates he has with other mapmakers. Throughout the novel he openly questions both his own psychological reliability and ability to handle human relationships. At times, he clearly fabricates conversations and events. This novel of ideas never feels contrived or schematic.”

“After Another Execution”

I read on a slip of paper at dinner tonight that
You must empty yourself before God may enter
so I emptied myself and found
the bottom of a lake bed
caked with sticky mud
next to a sign that said
do not swim.
Under a covering of mulch
the reflection of the stars
disappeared into the blackness.
I no longer want to reconcile myself to grief;
I’ll sit with this thing tonight.
Let it crack the bowls, break the windows out.
I am weary of running away.

From There, There by George Higgins, reviewed at The Rumpus by Heather Dobbins.

In Bohumil Hrabal’s mesmerizing novel Too Loud a Solitude,the narrator, Hanta, has been compacting paper in Czechoslovakia for 35 years: through WWII, the Communist regime, book bans, movie bans, and unspoken blacklists. But he mourns the Great Books hidden inside each compacted bale, and his apartment is filled with the ones he can’t bear to compact. A hammock of books sags above his bed as he sleeps, and the only clear path is from the window to the bed to the bathroom, where the books often fall, “catching him with his pants down.” “Inquisitors burn books in vain,” he says. “If a book has anything to say, it burns with a quiet laugh, because any book worth its salt points up and out of itself.” Yet he saves the books. As a character in Mariusz Szczygieł’s Gottland points out,“in our country, anything that isn’t written down doesn’t really exist.” The books have to be written before they can point anywhere, or catch anyone with her pants down.

Sarah Trudgeon reviews Gottland by Mariusz Szczygieł.

“Once upon a time this vision qualified as dystopic and its message cautionary. But as Thomas P. Keenan makes clear in Technocreep: The Surrender of Privacy and the Capitalization of Intimacy, we have entered a new Kuhnian paradigm that doesn’t necessarily include a future for the human species—at least as we know it. As Keenan puts it, the digitalization of humanity is now as unstoppable as climate change. Its impact can be reduced with certain uncomfortable adjustments, but the lag in any collective action will make it utterly reactionary and useless.”

"Girl with Chain"

Girl with part in her hair.

Girl with downward glance.
Girl with tiny Adam’s apple.

Girl with shoulders gently.

Girl with generalized flower pattern.
Girl with stomacher.

Girl with late 18th century.

Girl with exposed.
Girl with blue ground.

Girl with fog.

Girl with platemark.
Girl with fourteen doubles.

Girl with Hahnemüle.

Girl with mottling.
Girl with linen, lines.

From Her Book by Éireann Lorsung, reviewed at The Rumpus by Lisa Williams.

“The aesthetic of brokenness, of jarring incompleteness, stands against the perfection of Water Lillies, or Brundage’s father’s last “empty” paintings of a field, where his own ashes are scattered after his death. It’s an homage to the jagged aesthetic of underground music itself, a tradition that stretches back past the Sex Pistols to the Dadaists. But this also implies a more fundamental view of how artists keep creating. By the end of the novel, Brundage accepts that there is nothing to be hoped for except this incompleteness, and the possibility it creates for more work, for more possibilities: “I cannot begin to understand what it is to feel the weight of the work drop away and be unable to retrieve it … I cannot understand it, I do not want to understand it.” In the work of art itself, Brundage says, we “salvage what we can” — echoing T.S. Eliot: “These fragments I have shored up against my ruins” — a paradoxical act, an act of rebellion against both loss and permanence.”
“My copy of Catherine Lacey’s debut novel is dog-eared to the degree of making all those folded corners pointless. The book is one large dog-eared page, because you don’t have to flip far to find sentences and sentiments that make you pause and stare at the words, those simple marvels, and emit the sort of soft “oh” that usually comes after finishing a poem.”

“You’re nervous today,” I said. “And pretty.”

“Inginir,” [Rochina] said, using the family’s nickname for her husband—the Pashto word for “engineer” was used to describe an educated man—“is coming home today.”

Then, turning to me so only I could see it, she took her delicate hand, balled into a fist, and bit down on her pinky knuckle. She gasped softly, feigning breathlessness, grinned at me, then returned to stirring the stew.

This was sexier than all of the deleted scenes from the [Afghan version of] Titanic combined.

— From The Four Words for Home by Angie Chuang, reviewed for The Rumpus by Molly Beer
“Stroman was convicted of murder. The survivor, Rais Bhuiyan, was tangential to Stroman’s swift trial, where the defense lawyer never even tried to argue that his client was not guilty of the killings. The real battle was in sentencing: the law in Texas (and possibly elsewhere) doesn’t list a hate crime against a stranger as eligible for capital punishment. Even though Stroman declared before and after that he was an “American Terrorist,” bent on revenge for the Twin Tower attack, the prosecution had to use Stroman’s thwarted request for money in the last shooting to elicit the death penalty, only accessible for a murder committed in the course of another crime—in this case, a robbery.”
“Who are these “Holy Ghost People”? I suspect you’ll want to know. They are described this way in the dramatis personae: “a group of men & women who claim to have traveled through space & time to share the true word of god with the people of earth. they walk around in white flowing cloth. the holy ghost people distrust what the people of earth claim to be god & they mistrust what the people of earth claim to be science. they claim to know, & to have been sent by, the real god.””