Mark's Reviews > Granta 97: Best of Young American Novelists 2

Granta 97 by Granta: The Magazine of New...
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Aug 06, 2011

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Read from June 21 to August 06, 2011

Picked this up at the Cornell bookstore, and took a long time to get through it. I can't say I am waiting with baited breath for America's future fiction if these are the best young novelists. There were some impressive pieces, I thought, particularly those by Dara Horn, Rattawutt Lapcharoensap and ZZ Packer, but the rest were either inconsequential or left me disquieted about the characters and ideas.

1) Daniel Alarcon -- A village boy moves to the city, clerks at a store, gets an unexpected visit from his girlfriend, ends up back in the village, and it all has the emotional punch of cotton wool ...

2) Kevin Brockmeier -- A very sweet story about a mute man who grows up in a city of people who love to sing, and how he raises parakeets to become his voice ...

3) Judy Budnitz -- An odd tale about an apathetic group of young pest controllers for public housing, who treat complainants rudely and then clear out an apartment building and pick through people's belongings. No one to love here, really ...

4) Christopher Coake -- Finally, a grown up story. A man is going through a divorce when a woman calls to tell him that another woman whom he barely remembers, but who lost her virginity to him, has died of cancer. He's feeling bad enough about himself already, but the revelation opens up new insights into himself and for the woman's friend, in ways surprising and poignant ...

5) Anthony Doerr -- At first, I couldn't relate to this distant and depressive couple trying to conceive through IVF, but by their second attempt, I was suddenly engaged ...

6) Jonathan Safran Foer -- Remember the first time you were asked to write an "experimental" story in creative writing? This is that story. Not one of his better efforts ...

7) Nell Freudenberger -- While this story doesn't go anyplace, it captures a nonagenarian former Latin teacher's voice and thought patterns almost perfectly, as she deals with a neighbor marrying an Indian bride he met on the Internet and her granddaughter bringing home a young man of Indian heritage ...

8) Olga Grushin -- An elegiac little postcard about an exiled Russian in Paris who finds a book from his family library in a used bookstore. Meh ...

9) Dara Horn -- More than any other offering, this reads like an excerpt from a novel in progress, in a good way. A young Union soldier in the Civil War is recruited for a dangerous spy mission based on his Jewish heritage. I don't want to give away more, but it has tension, pace and drama ...

10) Gabe Hudson -- Not sure how much I like the main character, a Vietnamese-American gung ho Marine with a troubled past ...

11) Uzodimna Iweala -- The teenager in this story is grieving over losing his best friend, is confused by his sexuality and his contending with a father who is struggling to understand him. It captures the confused tangle of young emotions

12) Nicole Krauss -- A lonely young woman recalls how she met a painter who did her portrait -- slight ...

13) Rattawutt Lapcharoensap -- A sharply drawn portrait of three young valets working at a played out, sprawling restaurant in Thailand, and their fateful encounter with the arrogant son of the founder. This is what short stories are meant to be ...

14) Yiyun Li -- Six Chinese women form a company to ferret out men who are being unfaithful to their wives or girlfriends. But when they meet with a sad young man for the first time, their inner thoughts reveal just how complicated their own relationships have been ...

15) Maile Meloy -- A couple and their daughter pick up a stranded man and woman after selecting their Christmas tree, with unsettling consequences (and no, this isn't a horror story). Very well written, but I wasn't quite sure how much I liked these characters ...

16) ZZ Packer -- A bracing snippet about an Indian ambush in the mountains of a troop of Buffalo Soldiers ...

17) Jess Row -- A somewhat aimless Yale freshman encounters a Hispanic student who is captivated by Islam and Jihad. Their encounters are vividly told, and Row really knows how to handle the clash of ideas in student argot, but the ending is enigmatically unsatisfying ...

18) Karen Russell -- An oddly affecting story about a barn where 11 of the horses are reincarnated presidents of the United States. Eisenhower refuses to believe he's really a horse. Ulysses Grant is noble and courageous. Woodrow Wilson keeps making up the next speech he has to present. And Rutherford Hayes thinks a sheep in a nearby pasture might be his wife Lucy ...

19) Akhil Sharma -- A young Indian-American boy watches his life change when his older brother becomes brain-damaged in a swimming accident. But for all the praying he does, he seems strangely detached from everyone; too much identification with a narrator, I think ...

20) Gary Shteyngart -- Gary is an acquired taste. I enjoyed The Russian Debutante's Handbook, but this excerpt of two diary entries by the fictional Lenny Abramov -- one of a trip to Rome where he announces he will never die and one of his return to a frighteningly militarized New York -- are disjointed and dissatisfying ...

21) John Wray -- An odd story about an odd boy, known only as Lowboy, who gets on a New York subway after he apparently has escaped from some kind of institution and sits next to a Sikh man who tries to treat him kindly, but also seems to realize he is encountering someone with mental illness. The interior strangeness of Lowboy's thoughts are well crafted, but I couldn't see myself living with him for a whole novel ...









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message 3: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie I highly recommend Dara Horn's The World to Come. My review eplains why: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...


Mark Thanks


message 1: by Chrissie (new)

Chrissie It helps to like Chagall.


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