Brian Gittis

  • culture December 04, 2013

    In Pinelight by Thomas Rayfiel

    The novelist Thomas Rayfiel has has an uncanny talent for convincingly inhabiting the voices of those who are nothing like him: a fifteen-year-old member of a Christian cult (Colony Girl), for instance, or a dying Victorian earl (Time Among the Dead). A master of craft, he has been an imaginative writer, a mischievous writer, and at times a very weird one. But none of this prepares us for In Pinelight—his new, paragraph-break-free novel that simultaneously intimidates and rewards the reader.

    What is it about writing with no chapters and no paragraph breaks that is so intimidating? Why do we miss those gaps of white space on a page when they aren't there: those little tabs at the beginning of a paragraph, the textless paper at the end of a chapter? No matter how big a Faulkner or Thomas Bernhard fan you are, it's somehow never a welcoming sight to open a new book to find (gulp) an unbroken wall of text waiting for you.

    The novelist Thomas Rayfiel has been working just below the radar on some strange and wonderful projects over the years. He has an uncanny talent for convincingly

  • culture June 28, 2013

    Turtle Diary by Russell Hoban

    In his introduction to the New York Review’s reissue of Russell Hoban’s oddball 1975 novel Turtle Diary, Ed Park characterizes the book as a sort of literary cousin to the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby.” It’s a humble tale of urban loneliness, quotidian in flavor—which makes it an anomaly in Hoban’s large, very strange, increasingly out-of-print body of work. To extend the music analogy, the Hoban boxed set is a hard-to-label compilation—“Eleanor Rigby,” yes, but also works of elaborate, Wagnerian fantasy, Zappa-level weirdness, and kid-friendly tunes. Through a career that spanned more than seventy