Gilbert Sorrentino: Lunar Follies

One of the interesting things about Gilbert Sorrentino’s Lunar Follies is how little I can say about it, despite its formal structure, without departing for the subjective. It consists of 53 brief pieces, few more than a handful of pages long, named after features of the moon, ordered alphabetically. (In fact, its formalism and almostContinue reading “Gilbert Sorrentino: Lunar Follies”

Robin Sloan: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore

Overall I really liked Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. Precisely observed details of the sort of tech culture I’m well-qualified to comment on the realism of are juxtaposed with a surreal shadow conspiracy, a dash of derring-do, and a hefty, but not overbearing, dose of the metaphysical. The novel explicitly acknowledges the influence of the likesContinue reading “Robin Sloan: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore”

Dave Simpson: The Fallen – Searching for the Missing Members of The Fall

The Fallen has been on my to-read shelf for a while, but it was The Fall’s new release, Re-Mit that made me actually pick it up. Variously storming and shambling, Re-Mit forcibly recalls legendary BBC DJ John Peel’s oft-quoted praise of the band, “always different, always the same.” Lead single “Sir William Wray” sounds likeContinue reading “Dave Simpson: The Fallen – Searching for the Missing Members of The Fall”

Jo Stanley: Bold in Her Breeches: Women Pirates Across the Ages

A history of female pirates faces formidable challenges: career criminals tends to be systematically sensationalized and mythologized, pirates were overwhelmingly from a socio-economic class virtually ignored by traditional historians, and the doings — or even presence — of women is likewise ignored by many historical sources. A handful of female pirates left a verifiable historyContinue reading “Jo Stanley: Bold in Her Breeches: Women Pirates Across the Ages”

Dave Shelton: A Boy and a Bear in a Boat

This is an odd little book for sure. Shelton’s illustrations have some of the whimsy of Peggy Fortnum’s classic drawings of Paddington Bear, but the story of this unnamed ursine and lad, though grounded in a wealth of specific physical detail, is almost certainly too amorphous for most children’s taste. The book plainly operates atContinue reading “Dave Shelton: A Boy and a Bear in a Boat”

Lynn Thomas, Deborah Stanish (ed): Whedonistas! A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon by the Women Who Love Them

This collection of essays about Joss Whedon’s creations (through Dollhouse; it’s pre Cabin in the Woods/Avengers) includes contributions from writers whose work I already know (Jane Espenson, Emma Bull, Catherynne Valente…) some I didn’t, and some who aren’t writing professionals. It’s kind of all over the map: there’s some really insightful critical analysis, and there’sContinue reading “Lynn Thomas, Deborah Stanish (ed): Whedonistas! A Celebration of the Worlds of Joss Whedon by the Women Who Love Them”

Emma Straub: Other People We Married

The central characters in Straub’s first short story collection are almost all on the cusp of epiphanies that take them by surprise: they need to change, to leave or (more rarely) stay, and change in ways they didn’t anticipate. Straub has a fine and economical eye for telling detail, a good ear for naturalistic dialogue,Continue reading “Emma Straub: Other People We Married”

Jonathan Stroud: The Amulet of Samarkand

The Amulet of Smarkand demonstrated that it’s a book with the wherewithal to totally sidestep my critical sensibilities on its very first page. It opens with a description of a magician summoning a supernatural entity that is nicely atmospheric, but that will feel comfortable, even familiar, to readers familiar with the genre tropes — andContinue reading “Jonathan Stroud: The Amulet of Samarkand”

Robert Louis Stevenson: Treasure Island

I’m keen to read Sara Levine’s Treasure Island!!! and I thought I should probably acquaint myself with Stevenson’s classic first, to catch any references there might be. I’d never read any Stevenson before; his prose was a bit richer than I was expecting, with some evocative and economical descriptions, particularly of his harsh and unlovelyContinue reading “Robert Louis Stevenson: Treasure Island”

Erik Spiekermann, E.M. Ginger: Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works

As the name might suggest, Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works takes a breezy, irreverent approach to introducing typography to the lay reader. It does a good job of explaining the vocabulary of the field. It demonstrates how elements of of a typeface contribute to legibility in various contexts. And it introducesContinue reading “Erik Spiekermann, E.M. Ginger: Stop Stealing Sheep & Find Out How Type Works”