April 20, 2018 | Rome, Italy | °C
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Bios & Memoirs


Zero K

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


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.

The World Goes On

László Krasznahorkai's newest collection of stories is yet another ode in his ongoing courtship of oblivion.


British author Fiona Mozley's debut novel is a rural thriller that never relinquishes its grip.

A State of Freedom

Neel Mukherjee's "A State of Freedom" is a beautiful and terrifying trip into India's rot and wonder.

Swallowed by the Cold
By Jensen Beach
Graywolf Press, 2016. 191 pages

In the first story of Jensen Beach's moving but sometimes potholed collection, middle aged Swede Rolf Strand plays the best tennis of his life to beat neighbor Frederik Holm, who though he lost an arm to diabetes was once a French Open semifinalist. Despite the win, Rolf is distracted by melancholy thoughts about his son Lennart and loses control of his bike. He dies slouched and bloodied beside a canal while waving at passengers aboard a passing boat for help. They think he's greeting them and wave back.

Rolf is the ferryman to characters located mostly in secondary Swedish cities and suburbs. From Rolf, Jensen moves on to the people aboard the passing boat, and then to Lennart, mapping out a wide and interlocking ensemble in the mold of a Robert Altman movie. Each story is a flashcard, a snippet, which suits Jensen's terse and elegant prose. His best work lays out middle class hopes and crises in dispassionately fatalistic style.

Life is a form of incapacitation. In one story, office walls are crowded with "cheap prints of bad artwork, idyllic Nordic landscapes made claustrophobic and menacing behind dusty plastic frames." In another, a man named Jacob is "never frustrated, rarely angry, but always sad." Elsewhere, Louise dwells on "car accidents, robberies, disease" and, while drunk, decides a new apartment occupant is the daughter of a former lover. She isn't.

Jensen's gloominess is an invasive fog. In its thrall, confrontation is rare, secrets are many, and glum seepage constant. In "The Ships of Stockholm," nothing happens fast until, out of nowhere, its flirting characters see that a ferry's ablaze and that people are leaping overboard. In "The Right-Hand Traffic Diversion" a fastidious man loses his wife in a crowd. Panicked, he is "swallowed by the cold." In the final story, Lennart, who is nagged by "a sense of finality, of permanence," notices in passing that a hotel TV emits "dim shaky light." It's the light that gnaws at each of Jensen's 15 northern exposures.

Reviewed by Book Staff
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