Sunday Staff Picks: November 17th

A Prayer for Travelers by Ruchika Tomar A Prayer for Travelers is an intense and intricate debut novel by Ruchika Tomar. Set in the dusty nowhere towns along the California-Nevada border, the novel follows protagonist Cale Lambert as she tracks her disappeared friend, Penny Reyes, following a shocking assault in the desert. At home, Cale’s…

Sunday Staff Picks: November 10th

Three Summers by Margarita Liberaki, translated by Karen Van Dyck Threes unfurl in the aptly (re)titled Three Summers by Margarita Liberaki, richly translated by Karen Van Dyck. The novel follows three sisters, the fledgling novelist and narrator Katerina, the cool and precise Infanta, and the warm, sensual Maria, over the course of three years (three…

A Phoenix from the Ashes: Myth and Memorial in Sara Stridsberg’s Valerie

Valerie, or The Faculty of Dreams: A Novel / Sara Stridsberg, trans. by Deborah Bragan-Turner / FSG, 08/2019 – $27 (Hardcover) Valerie Solanas’s Wikipedia page begins:  “Valerie Jean Solanas (April 9, 1936 – April 25, 1988) was an American radical feminist and author best known for writing the SCUM Manifesto, which she self-published in 1967, and attempting to murder Andy Warhol in 1968.” It…

Sunday Staff Picks: October 27th

SoundMachine by Rachel Zucker In her elegiac poem “Rough Waters,” Rachel Zucker asks: “What story is this? / What animal am I?” These two questions and all that they carry – ideas of form, displacement, incongruity, language, and instinct – run throughout SoundMachine, Zucker’s collection of genre-bending poems. Whether speaking about motherhood, grief, or poetry,…

Sunday Staff Picks: October 20th

Quichotte by Salman Rushdie The title character in Salman Rushdie’s new novel, Quichotte, explains his chivalric quest with the following quotation: “We may be after a celestial goal, but we still have to travel along the interstate,” thus summarizing the entire premise of this earth-shaking novel. Salman Rushdie has meshed the epic proportions of Don Quixote with contemporary culture in a way that is shockingly modern yet refreshingly timeless. Fans of Don Quixote will be stunned at every turn with the creative remodeling of the classic story. Sancho is a Pinocchio-esque son evolved from Quichotte’s loneliness; Miss Salma R is…

An Interview with Mark Statman

The first thing that Mark Statman – translator, poet, and The Columbia Review alumnus – told me during our phone conversation was that there were hummingbirds clustered in the flowering tree outside his window. If he seemed a little distracted, it was because he was watching the birds. This type of moment-to-moment attention is characteristic…

Sunday Staff Picks: October 13th

On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong It is a pleasure to read a sentence that makes language new; it is a revelation to read a book full of such sentences. Ocean Vuong’s debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous creates a language of longing. The novel is framed as a letter from the…

Sunday Staff Picks: October 6th

Dunce by Mary Ruefle Mary Ruefle’s Dunce examines “the museum of / everyday life.” Throughout the book, Ruefle narrows her poetic gaze on the subjects and objects of the quotidian, and in turns unexpected, deeply funny, and wildly lyrical, exposes the ostensibly dulled or hidden mysteries that lie within. I am most enraptured by the earnest and insistent belief in language’s efficacy that Ruefle’s speaker marvels of throughout. In “Super Bowl,” Ruefle writes of a woman overheard on a plane, “I felt such joy over the unknown / outcome of her words.” I too, not knowing how Ruefle’s artful line…

Sunday Staff Picks: September 15th

Stay and Fight by Madeline ffitch Trying to capture “Appalachia” is impossible, but Madeline ffitch’s Stay and Fight steers clear of the desire to capture an entire region and paints a singular portrait of rural, Appalachian Ohio with detail, complexity, and sincerity. Readers are introduced to Helen, a Seattle-bred millennial who reluctantly follows her boyfriend…