The tone of Orion You Came and You Took All My Marbles, the debut novel by Kira Henehan, announces itself on the title page—sonorous but disjointed, maybe a little overstuffed. Henehan's heroine is Finley, a seasoned detective with yellow eyes and red hair cut "as straight as the edge of a page."
Sam Munson's debut, The November Criminals, hinges on the distinct, adolescent voice of its narrator. In the tradition of Huck ("You don't know about me") and Holden ("If you really want to hear about it"), Munson's Addison Schacht starts with "You've asked me to explain what my best and worst
Jennifer Gilmore's Something Red opens in the summer of 1979. The hostage crisis in Iran will soon play out; the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan is imminent. The political stakes are high, but passions are dulled. The Summer of Love and Freedom Summer are dusty memories. Kent State has become a legal
The afterword to Olga Grushin's second novel, The Line, explains that her book is based on Igor Stravinsky's 1962 visit to Russia, the great composer's return home after fifty years abroad. More than five thousand fans waited a year in line for a concert he would conduct, establishing schemes to
Scott Bradfield writes about America like the part-time expat he is. Living half in London, half in the United States, Bradfield keeps a wary distance from his homeland, employing his outcast narrators to do his dirty work: sneaking into suburban neighborhoods and peering into bedroom windows just
Lionel Shriver loves a good tragedy. In the months of soul-searching that followed the Columbine massacre, Shriver penned the Orange Prize–winning novel We Need to Talk About Kevin (2003). The epistolary thriller, narrated by a mother attempting to understand why her dislikable son went on a murderous
The most gifted essayists are often just brilliant storytellers. Such is the case with Elif Batuman in her debut collection, The Possessed. A teacher at Stanford University, she has published some of this work in the New Yorker, n+1, and Harper's. Rather boldly for a tyro essayist, Batuman employs
There's probably not a living American writer who has so comprehensively mined the comic possibilities of that particular anguished, hapless combination of the overeducated and the underachieving as Sam Lipsyte. Against all odds, his heroes refuse to succeed, and they and we are rewarded with the