Leigh Newman

  • culture April 01, 2011

    The Free World by David Bezmozgis

    In the past decade, a handful of writers have added compelling twists to the classic immigration novel, adding new and unexpected layers to tales of newcomers in new lands. Jeffrey Eugenides, for example, wrote about a hermaphrodite immigrant in Middlesex; in Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the protagonist had a fantastic imagination and used an unexpected language infused with Spanish and video game slang. Now comes David Bezmozgis’s The Free World, an immigration novel in which the characters don’t actually immigrate.

    Instead, the book, set in the 1970s, focuses on the

  • culture September 13, 2010

    Skippy Dies by Paul Murray

    The fat kid who plays the French horn. The mentally stunted drug dealer. The suck-up, runner-up for valedictorian. The boy who lights his fart into "a magnificent plume of flame...a cold and beautiful enchantment that for an instant bathes the locker room in unearthly light." These are a few typical characters from Paul Murray's Skippy Dies, a sprawling homage to adolescence, string theory, roofies, wet knickers, and unrequited love. Set in Ireland at the Seabrook Catholic School for Boys, the book features a cast of fourteen-year-olds who have populated classrooms for centuries.

    And yet as

  • culture August 27, 2010

    Sprawl by Danielle Dutton

    At the heart of Danielle Dutton's Sprawl is a lavish, endless list of domestic objects: water pitchers, sweaters, cakes on cake stands, petunias in a terra-cotta pot. Borrowing techniques from both fiction, poetry, and visual art (particularly photography), the book not only infuses each object, be it a juice glass or a paper napkin, with a Vermeeresque glow but arranges it into part of a verbal still life. The result? A fresh take on suburbia, one of reverence and skepticism.

    In terms of plot, the book follows the crumbling marriage of the nameless narrator. At night, her husband “makes