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Mark Flanagan

Contemporary Literature


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Nick Hornby's A Long Way Down

Sunday April 13, 2014

If anybody can write a feel-good novel about suicide, it's Nick Hornby. That novel was A Long Way Down, Hornby's 2005 story of four people - a talk show host, a musician, a teenage girl and a mother - who find each other on New Year's Eve on the roof of Topper's House, a well-known jumping-off point for the suicidal in London.

A Long Way Down will be a movie this year, as happens to novels when you're Nick Hornby, and I'll be interested to see if they do it justice (hint: read the book first). As you may or may not know, Hornby was also tapped to adapt Cheryl Strayed's Wild for the screen, another film out this year.

2014 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist

Friday April 11, 2014

This week, the 2014 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction shortlist of six was announced with the following books contending for the 30,000 award, to be announced at a ceremony in London on June 4:

The Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction (formerly the Orange Prize) was formed in 1991 when a group of journalists, reviewers, agents, publishers, librarians and booksellers noticed a distinct lack of women in the Booker shortlist. Learn more about the prize and its history at womensprizeforfiction.co.uk.

Leaving the Sea by Ben Marcus

Monday April 7, 2014

Ben Marcus's new collection Leaving the Sea reads like a compilation of demos and false starts, of stories that Marcus has not yet expanded towards the length of a novel. Marcus's cryptic, aggressive prose will appeal to fans of The Flame Alphabet, but might also reveal an author struggling to emerge from a tonal rut.

Review of Leaving the Sea

Photo: Knopf

Hikikomori and the Rental Sister by Jeff Backhaus

Monday March 31, 2014

After the death of his son, Thomas Tessler locks himself in his room for three years, surfacing only late at night to buy food at the 24-hour store. His wife, desperate for his return, hires a "rental sister" to coax him out of his reclusive state, but she may have signed up for more than she bargained for when Megumi and Thomas begin to get close.

Review of Hikikomori and the Rental Sister

Photo: Algonquin

A True Novel by Minae Mizumura

Sunday March 30, 2014

Minae Mizumura's A True Novel is an homage to the frame tale, the literary technique in which one story is told within another, as with Samuel Richardson's epistolary novel Clarissa or Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. All the tropes of a nineteenth-century British novel are at work here and sing in harmony with a different kind of story, one of mid-twentieth century Japan.

Review of Minae Mizumura's A True Novel

Photo: Other Press

The Land of Steady Habits by Ted Thompson

Saturday March 29, 2014

When Anders Hill retires and divorces within the same year, he is faced with the curious task of growing up and facing looming moral responsibility late in life.

Review of The Land of Steady Habits

Photo: Little Brown and Company

Equilateral by Ken Kalfus

Friday March 28, 2014

Ken Kalfus' novel Equilateral is the story of Sanford Thayer, a well-regarded British Astronomer whose great obsession is the construction of an enormous equilateral triangle in the Egyptian desert, a perfect geometric signal to the Martians of their neighbors on the planet Earth.

Review of Equilateral

Photo: Bloomsbury

The Ballad of Barnabas Pierkiel by Magdalena Zyzak

Monday March 24, 2014

The setting of Magdalena Zyzak's debut novel is the fictional country of Scalvusia, where young antihero Barnabas Pierkiel looks after the pigs, pines for the gypsy beauty Roosha Papusha, and finds himself embroiled in a series of farcical misadventures.

Review of The Ballad of Barnabas Pierkiel

Photo: Henry Holt and Co.

Double Negative by Ivan Vladislavic

Wednesday March 19, 2014

In Double Negative Ivan Vladislavic tells the three part story of Neville Lister, a Johannesburg college dropout whose early association with a great photographer informs his own trajectory in this subtly-paced story.

Review of Double Negative

Photo: And Other Stories

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie wins National Book Critics Award for Fiction

Friday March 14, 2014

The winners of the 2013 National Book Critics Circle Awards were announced Thursday evening:

  • Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie won the fiction prize.
  • Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink won the nonfiction prize.
  • Farewell, Fred Voodoo by Amy Wilentz won the autobiography prize.
  • Metaphysical Dog by Frank Bidart won the poetry prize.
  • Distant Reading by Franco Moretti won the criticism prize.
  • A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra won the John Leonard Prize, a new award that honors the first book in any genre.

More from the NBCC website.

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