Reading Aira’s 1982 masterpiece, newly available in English translation, is like a taking a dreamlike voyage through a funhouse mirror vision of the 19th Century Argentine frontier. Ema, a woman of indeterminate background, is a prisoner at a military garrison when she is captured by Indians. She moves among different tribes before striking out on her own as a traveler, visiting the Indians’ great capital city and ultimately becoming an entrepreneur. As we accompany her on this great journey, Aira’s prose twists and turns, subverting the conventions of gothic novels, captive narratives, American westerns, and historical fiction. This literary tour-de-force is not to be missed!
In this riotous and impassioned satirical novel, Beatty takes aim at nearly all the sacred cows present in American culture to expose the racist id of America’s national psyche. The book’s unnamed African-American protagonist resides in Dickens, a fictional Los Angeles neighborhood that has recently been erased off the city’s maps and road signs, probably because as a poor, gang-ridden, exclusively minority enclave, even seeing the name Dickens might disabuse one of the notion that America is a post-racial, egalitarian society. Our narrator was reared by a radical sociologist father who parents according to the dictates of “liberation psychology”. As an adult he works as an artisanal watermelon and marijuana farmer, but when his father is murdered by the police, he becomes a modern-day school segregationist and slaveholder. What’s so tenacious and brilliant about this book is how it refuses to let the reader forget the she lives in a white supremacist “democracy” where racism colors so many aspects of our quotidian existence.
(This book cannot be returned.)
The protagonist of this autobiographical novel is a young woman who graduates from college in the Midwest and moves to New York City, where she soon finds work in one of the city’s most renowned restaurants. Working there with a motley crew of artists, actors and restaurant industry veterans, she learns hard lessons about adulthood amid the bright lights and expensive plates of the city’s fine dining scene. Danler’s experience working in the industry (she got her start at Danny Meyer’s renowned Union Square Café) is evident as she writes beautifully about the tastes of all manner of food and spirits, and accurately depicts the cutthroat managerial practices of the restaurant industry, and how the camaraderie between waiters and other staff enables them to endure the many stresses of their jobs. The protagonist’s torrid affair with an older bartender undergirds the book’s dramatic arc, and while this element of the narrative makes it a great plane or beach read, there are also profound meditations here on how the hard lessons of early adulthood teach us resilience in the end.