• print • Apr/May 2006

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  • print • June/July/Aug 2007

    Asylum Seeker

    On March 23, 1966, the publisher Peter Owen sent a letter to Anna Kavan, not quite rejecting, though by no means accepting, her manuscript The Cold World. He also sent along a reader’s report that described Kavan’s writing, pretty correctly it seems to me, as a cross between Kafka and The Avengers. Kavan immediately wrote back, with some spirit and what on paper, anyway, looks like good humor, saying, “This expresses quite accurately the effect I was aiming at. Considering Kafka’s reputation and the success of The Avengers, I can’t think why you don’t want the book as it is!”

    This anecdote

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  • print • June/July/Aug 2007

    Returning Point

    Tessa Hadley’s third novel is her most ambitious and successful to date, marking a return to the taut form of her much-lauded 2002 debut, Accidents in the Home. (Hadley’s second and oft-criticized book, Everything Will Be All Right [2003], was a lumbering multigenerational saga that may come to occupy the place that The Years does in Virginia Woolf’s oeuvre—an experimental text later seen as anomalous in light of the author’s more powerfully compressed style.) Offering only four main characters in The Master Bedroom, Hadley can engage in deeper moral and psychological scrutiny of each.

    Kate

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  • print • June/July/Aug 2007

    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

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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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  • print • June/July/Aug 2007

    The unnamed narrator of Elfriede Jelinek’s latest novel, Greed, speaks in one voice from multiple minds: She veers from town gossip and amateur sleuth to the royal “we writers”; she then enters the private longings of various Miss Lonelyhearts and the interior monologues of the brutish country policeman who seduces them to gain their property. Like her Austrian forebear Thomas Bernhard, Jelinek has a penchant for loners’ rants and a disgust for her country’s politics. Her premise—that greed corrupts— is classic. Her execution, with its nihilistic digressions, contorted sentences, and “narrative

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  • print • June/July/Aug 2007

    Dresden, 1741: A count lies suffering from chronic insomnia. To soothe his misery, he orders a musician to play to him every night, a ritual that necessitates the composition of pieces for the young clavier player. The task is assigned, a set of thirty variations on a theme is written, and one of the masterpieces of Western music is born. The insomniac is Hermann Karl von Keyserling; the harpsichordist, Johann Gottlieb Goldberg; and the composer, Johann Sebastian Bach. So goes the creation myth of the Goldberg Variations, a tightly assembled rotation of elements including canons, genres, and

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  • print • June/July/Aug 2007

    Dutch Master

    There’s a cold moment when you open a book that an entire nation officially loves. It can’t be quite that good, you think. It might say all too much about the country that loves it—in this case, Holland. Besides, when a book is approved as safe in so many schoolrooms, how can it possibly still be alive? And why doesn’t the rest of the world know about it already?

    So the first thing to say about Willem Frederik Hermans’s Nooit meer slapen (Beyond Sleep) is that forty-one years of being lodged in the Dutch canon have done it no harm at all; it’s as bright and black as anything contemporary. It

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