Unclassifiable, dizzying, and gorgeous.

PILOT IMPOSTOR

A short, genre-bending book that interrogates themes including art, race, and doubt.

The cover of the third book from novelist Hannaham features a disquieting, arresting image: two airplane passengers bent over in their seats, hands clasped above their heads, as if bracing for impact. Early in the book, the author offers something of an explanation: “I have so many systems to monitor as I work; each aspect of the writing might as well be a knob or a dial on the console of an airplane….It’s as if I am a pilot without knowing anything about how to fly an airplane.” Hannaham’s book—not quite a novel, not quite a short story collection, not quite like anything else—is a clever series of reflections on art, doubt, race, and impostor syndrome. Written as a response to the poetry of Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa, the book mixes artwork with brief pieces that blur the line between prose and poetry, many focusing on aviation. In one section, a despondent pilot steers his own aircraft into the ocean; he still considers himself a “good person,” reasoning that his passengers’ families will get insurance payouts. Another section showcases Hannaham’s mordant humor: “Do I want to die in a plane crash? I can think of some good reasons to do so. It would bring more attention to this book. It was as if he knew, the reviewers would say, always eager for a prophet.” Hannaham can switch gears quickly from the tragic to the comic, and the ensuing whiplash the reader experiences is as fascinating as it is destabilizing. Each section of the book is beautifully executed in its own way, whether it’s about a pedophile who agonizingly fights his urges or a White police officer who pulls over a driver of color and recites the opening lines of famous poems at him. This book might be impossible to classify, but it’s easy to admire—Hannaham continues to be one of the country’s smartest and most surprising writers of fiction (or whatever this book actually is).

Unclassifiable, dizzying, and gorgeous.

Pub Date: Nov. 30, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-59376-701-3

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Soft Skull Press

Review Posted Online: Aug. 18, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2021

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

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

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

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

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 15

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2022

  • New York Times Bestseller

  • IndieBound Bestseller

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

Did you like this book?

more