• print • Apr/May 2006

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  • print • June/July/Aug 2007

    To paraphrase the compliment Joan Didion paid Fat City, Leonard Gardner’s classic 1969 novel set in Stockton, California, Richard Lange has got it right about Los Angeles. Dead Boys, his debut story collection, depicts average Southland life with unfaltering exactitude— the doughnut shop–cum-hangout, the sun’s merciless routine, Spanglish, and the disconsolateness of the carless. Such meticulously drawn commonplace scenery is remarkable in itself. But what’s most impressive about Lange’s tales is how his LA bypasses the usual accounts of nihilism and dystopia to signify instead the hard-luck

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  • print • June/July/Aug 2007

    Sex Brainiac

    Alexander Theroux once declared revenge the “single most informing element of great world literature,” transcending even “love and war, with which themes . . . it has more than passing acquaintance.” Revenge, Theroux suggests, also drives authors to create. George Orwell, he points out, figured the “desire . . . to get your own back on grownups who snubbed you in childhood” to be among one’s first motivations for writing.

    Theroux’s novels are close cousins to Jacobean revenge plays: No plan unfolds without dire consequences. Yet they’re also meditations on how anger consumes us, and they’re

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  • print • June/July/Aug 2007

    Venal Colony

    The plain, even soporific titles of Matthew Sharpe’s books—Stories from the Tube (1998), Nothing Is Terrible (2000), The Sleeping Father (2003), and now Jamestown—belie one of the most energetic and laudably fluid prose styles going. On any given page, Sharpe can swing contagious exuberance (“How unpleasant and interesting it is to be alive!”) and aphoristic head-scratchers, shrewd pop-culture quotation and hairpin dialogue, the brilliant joke and the dumb joke and the dumb joke repeated enough times that it becomes brilliant. His breakthrough novel, The Sleeping Father, engineers a nuclear-family

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  • print • June/July/Aug 2007

    Jack Pendarvis’s second collection of stories, Your Body Is Changing, is populated by a preposterous assortment of oddballs and losers. Whether he’s describing an embittered failure with a superiority complex who rambles about the hamburger restaurant he wants to start, a self-proclaimed prophet traveling along an Alabama freeway with his nine goats, or an aging professor who grasps clumsily for hip lingo to impress the young folks, Pendarvis delights in exposing a range of chafingly self-involved blowhards and dithering freaks.

    At times, this kaleidoscope of weirdos is a bit too arbitrary

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  • print • June/July/Aug 2007

    Viken Berberian’s second novel, Das Kapital, wryly lives up to its name. Like many economic treatises since Marx’s, it concerns the gently aging love triangle of capitalism, power, and labor. The story’s main character is Wayne, the wunderkind manager of a three-billiondollar hedge fund, who has honed his ability to anticipate when stocks will decline, profiting handsomely by betting against individual companies and national markets. Though Berberian layers Wayne’s story with references to the Situationist International, his book is less a novel of ideas than a series of cartoonish interactions

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