November 18, 2017 | Rome, Italy | °C
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Fiction

Fifteen Dogs: An Apologue

André Alexis's stunning "Fifteen Dogs" confers canines with human sensibility, and the greater gift of empathy.

This Census-Taker

China Miéville turns too arcane in his latest foray into the Stonehenge-styled surreal.

Zero K

Don DeLillo's latest future-sprawl, cryonic freezing included, doesn't quite know what it most wants to say.

Swallowed by the Cold

Jensen Beach's 15 stories are set in Sweden and convey equal doses of wisdom and melancholy.

Gutshot

Amelia Gray is adept enough with grotesqueness to make it feel second nature, and that's a gift.

Missing Person

Modiano's slender 1978 psychological thriller remains a superb and disturbing Parisian novel.

How to Set a Fire and Why

Jesse Ball's study of teen alienation, while persuasive, heads for and reaches a dead end.

The Teeth of the Comb and Other Stories

Osama Alomar's latest collection of stories in miniature prove his worth as a Mideast magical realist.

I Am the Brother of XX

Fleur Jaeggy's latest book is a stunning collection of short stories in which the living exist to seek exit.

To the Back of the Beyond

In Peter Stamm's latest novel, a loving husband takes a walk from which it seems he never returns.




BOOK REVIEW
Tyler's Last
By David Winner
Outpost19, 2015. 276 pages

David Winner's novel "Tyler's Last" is a tribute to American novelist Patricia Highsmith and her best-known creation Tom Ripley. Highsmith (1921-1995) both tinkered with and tailored the art of the psychological thriller and Winner honors her by walking down that same path. Here, two stories intertwine in a book-within-a-book. The first involves the physical decline and erotic obsession of an "old lady" author struggling to write her last book about a Ripley-style hero named Tyler. The second is the story of fictional Tyler himself.

Set in the days preceding the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the novel follows Tyler back to the United States from the Amalfi Coast. He's had to give up the beloved house he shared with his wife after she ran away with a woman in what can seem like a comedy of misfortune ("My wife has gone to Marrakesh with her little French girlfriend, my car has broken down, and the villa we've taken for the summer is right up this hill.") Soon, Tyler is embroiled in a mission to uncover both the details of his own past as well the past of his first crime's victim.

On a parallel track, the author who created Tyler is on a quest of her own: to finish her "Tyler" and reconnect with a Dutch woman with whom she shared the most potent erotic episode of her life.

Relationship triangles — Tyler's own marriage and that of the old lady and her devoted caretaker — intersect. The story zips from present to past and back, from European glamour to gritty New York. The tour of sexual variations is just as varied.

In the final chapters, the characters from the book-within-a-book and those of "Tyler's Last" join in a poignant and hilarious dénouement. The old lady's name is finally disclosed — Eve — and the fictional cast blurs into the author's "real life," eliciting a revelatory dimension.

"Tyler's Last" is like a great tribute band. At times, it captures what made the first band special, even surpassing it. At others, it illustrates flaws in the original music and lyrics. Over all, the riff is fitting.

Reviewed by Madeleine Johnson
Day and Boarding International High School in the Heart of Rome

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