Rich, complex, entertaining tales of strangers in strange lands.

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MALE TALES OF LUST & LOVE

Restless men go abroad in search of sex, love, and belonging in these adventurous short stories.

Jaffe, the author of Yeled Tov (2018), sends his protagonists, most of them gay and Jewish, to unfamiliar places to encounter people and situations that stimulate them carnally and spiritually. In “The Importance of Being Jurassic,” an American reporter in Dublin encounters a closeted Catholic man who regards oral sex as a filthy sacrament, and in “Cobblestone Elegy,” a Jewish American in Prague meets the ghost of a gay Holocaust martyr. A middle-aged Soviet woman, looking for a way to immigrate to the United States, tries to lure a decades-younger American student into marriage in “Innocence Abroad.” In “The Trickster,” an aging man at a convention of “bears and chasers” in Catalonia imagines that all the young, attractive men are lusting for his corpulent body, and a new widower falls in love with a frankly businesslike yet soulful female sex worker in Seville in “El Bochorno.” In the sexually graphic “Walpurgisnacht,” a Catholic soul knocking on heaven’s gate struggles to explain to St. Peter why he engaged in a Satanic sex-murder orgy at a German bathhouse during his last night on earth. Over the course of this book, Jaffe’s lively, limpid prose features sharply etched characters and passages that shift between absurdist humor (as when a character wonders why an old man on a plane “ensconced himself toe-to-head within a 30-gallon, heavy-duty, clear plastic trash bag”), sly social observation (“No matter how many times you wink at him, he will not return your glance, will just take some book out of his bright blue backpack and read—or pretend to”), and wry sensuality. The result is a redolent blend of atmospheric travelogue, earthy physicality, satire, magical realism, and Kafkaesque disorientation—the latter most notably in “The Return,” in which a descendant of Jewish conversos returns to the Spain that his ancestors fled and finds himself bombarded with hallucinatory inducements to take up his deceased relatives’ gentile ways.

Rich, complex, entertaining tales of strangers in strange lands.

Pub Date: Sept. 8, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73414-642-4

Page Count: 168

Publisher: Rattling Good Yarns Press

Review Posted Online: July 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A welcome literary resurrection that deserves a place alongside Wright’s best-known work.

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THE MAN WHO LIVED UNDERGROUND

A falsely accused Black man goes into hiding in this masterful novella by Wright (1908-1960), finally published in full.

Written in 1941 and '42, between Wright’s classics Native Son and Black Boy, this short novel concerns Fred Daniels, a modest laborer who’s arrested by police officers and bullied into signing a false confession that he killed the residents of a house near where he was working. In a brief unsupervised moment, he escapes through a manhole and goes into hiding in a sewer. A series of allegorical, surrealistic set pieces ensues as Fred explores the nether reaches of a church, a real estate firm, and a jewelry store. Each stop is an opportunity for Wright to explore themes of hope, greed, and exploitation; the real estate firm, Wright notes, “collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in rent from poor colored folks.” But Fred’s deepening existential crisis and growing distance from society keep the scenes from feeling like potted commentaries. As he wallpapers his underground warren with cash, mocking and invalidating the currency, he registers a surrealistic but engrossing protest against divisive social norms. The novel, rejected by Wright’s publisher, has only appeared as a substantially truncated short story until now, without the opening setup and with a different ending. Wright's take on racial injustice seems to have unsettled his publisher: A note reveals that an editor found reading about Fred’s treatment by the police “unbearable.” That may explain why Wright, in an essay included here, says its focus on race is “rather muted,” emphasizing broader existential themes. Regardless, as an afterword by Wright’s grandson Malcolm attests, the story now serves as an allegory both of Wright (he moved to France, an “exile beyond the reach of Jim Crow and American bigotry”) and American life. Today, it resonates deeply as a story about race and the struggle to envision a different, better world.

A welcome literary resurrection that deserves a place alongside Wright’s best-known work.

Pub Date: April 20, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-59853-676-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Library of America

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2021

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Sure to enchant even those who have never played a video game in their lives, with instant cult status for those who have.

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TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW

The adventures of a trio of genius kids united by their love of gaming and each other.

When Sam Masur recognizes Sadie Green in a crowded Boston subway station, midway through their college careers at Harvard and MIT, he shouts, “SADIE MIRANDA GREEN. YOU HAVE DIED OF DYSENTERY!” This is a reference to the hundreds of hours—609 to be exact—the two spent playing “Oregon Trail” and other games when they met in the children’s ward of a hospital where Sam was slowly and incompletely recovering from a traumatic injury and where Sadie was secretly racking up community service hours by spending time with him, a fact which caused the rift that has separated them until now. They determine that they both still game, and before long they’re spending the summer writing a soon-to-be-famous game together in the apartment that belongs to Sam's roommate, the gorgeous, wealthy acting student Marx Watanabe. Marx becomes the third corner of their triangle, and decades of action ensue, much of it set in Los Angeles, some in the virtual realm, all of it riveting. A lifelong gamer herself, Zevin has written the book she was born to write, a love letter to every aspect of gaming. For example, here’s the passage introducing the professor Sadie is sleeping with and his graphic engine, both of which play a continuing role in the story: “The seminar was led by twenty-eight-year-old Dov Mizrah....It was said of Dov that he was like the two Johns (Carmack, Romero), the American boy geniuses who'd programmed and designed Commander Keen and Doom, rolled into one. Dov was famous for his mane of dark, curly hair, wearing tight leather pants to gaming conventions, and yes, a game called Dead Sea, an underwater zombie adventure, originally for PC, for which he had invented a groundbreaking graphics engine, Ulysses, to render photorealistic light and shadow in water.” Readers who recognize the references will enjoy them, and those who don't can look them up and/or simply absorb them. Zevin’s delight in her characters, their qualities, and their projects sprinkles a layer of fairy dust over the whole enterprise.

Sure to enchant even those who have never played a video game in their lives, with instant cult status for those who have.

Pub Date: July 5, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-593-32120-1

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2022

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