Tom Leclair

  • Heavy Meta

    German-Austrian novelist Daniel Kehlmann’s Fame is a Nabokovian puzzle, a game of hide-and-seek, and a playful reflection on cultural renown and the lack thereof. Told in nine episodes that initially appear discrete but then rapidly connect with one another, the book focuses on three celebrities, three nobodies, and a minor author named Leo Richter, who early on speaks of a novel with a “narrative arc, but no main character.” Another character critiques Richter’s fiction, thinking it “full of complicated mirror effects and unpredictable shifts and swerves that were flourishes of empty virtuosity.”


    When Evan Dara’s first novel, The Lost Scrapbook, was chosen in a national fiction competition judged by William Vollmann, then published by Fiction Collective Two in 1995, the only review in the mainstream press compared the book to William Gaddis’s famously ambitious and demanding debut, The Recognitions. I wrote that review. Now Dara is back with his JR, a novel of fragmentary dialogue and compulsive monologue about a nonentity who mysteriously achieves sudden wealth and power. I’m not deterred from making this comparison by Dara’s e-mail denial to me that he has read Gaddis’s first two

  • Chimp Change

    “Bad monkey” is a childish euphemism a policeman might use to protect the sensitivity of an adolescent girl, Jane Charlotte, whose younger brother, Phil, was abducted while Jane was supposed to be watching him. Little does the policeman know that Jane is a “bad seed” who has sacrificed her brother, not to the “Bad Monkeys,” which is, in fact, a secret group that fights evil, but to an opposing secret group called the “Troop.” And, one suspects, little does the author know that the title suggests from the beginning the juvenile quality of his book, its combination of fairy-tale morality, contrived