David Vann's vision of family redemption starts magically, but grows foul with rage.
Chilean Alejandro Zambra's stories move from fictional autobiography into handsome melancholy.
In the spirit of "Dr. Strangelove," French novelist Michel Houellebecq puts a brilliantly comic spin on a sensitive topic.
Samantha Harvey's novel-length letter to a long-lost friend is as brilliant as it is sad.
"Tyler's Last" evokes the ghost of Patricia Highsmith in a thriller of global complications.
Put mischievously spinster twins in a small Mexican city and out come sly laughs.
André Alexis's stunning "Fifteen Dogs" confers canines with human sensibility, and the greater gift of empathy.
China Miéville turns too arcane in his latest foray into the Stonehenge-styled surreal.
Don DeLillo's latest future-sprawl, cryonic freezing included, doesn't quite know what it most wants to say.
Jensen Beach's 15 stories are set in Sweden and convey equal doses of wisdom and melancholy.
Jews Without Money
By Michael Gold
Carroll & Graff, 1996, . 309 pages
The title says it all: part autobiography, part Marxist screed, this fictional autobiography, first published in 1930, chronicles the life of the Gold family on New York's Lower East Side in the decades around 1900. The cast of characters is a who's who of seedy city life: schnorrers, prostitutes and slumlords.
Gold's prose is primordial, stripped to the bone, yet the story takes unexpectedly tender twists, especially when relating the European childhood of the narrator's parents. At times he seems to have forgotten why they had emigrated in the first place. The book's message is clear, however: America has defeated the old-time religion of the author's immigrant parents and has replaced it with the God of Capitalism.
Instead praying for the Messiah, Gold's protagonist lyrically pines for the coming of the Workers' Revolution. Take it or leave it, it's worth reading for the punchy prose. With an introduction by Alfred Kazin.
Reviewed by Marc Alan Di Martino