Our fivesome of fascinating reviews this week includes Mateo Askaripour on Jamel Brinkley's Witness , Katy Waldman on Ann Patchett's Tom Lake , Michael Frank on Patrick deWitt's The Librarianist , Apoorva Tadepalli on Lydia Kiesling's Mobility , and Jennifer Szalai on Wolfram Eilenberger's The Visionaries . Brought to you by Book Marks , Lit Hub's “Rotten Tomatoes for books.” “Jamel Brinkley's sophomore story collection, Witness , opens with an epigraph from James Baldwin, describing how thin the line is between a witness and an actor: ‘Nevertheless,' Baldwin concludes, ‘the line is real.' But is it? Over the course of 10 splendidly thought-provoking stories—set in Brooklyn and featuring animal rescue volunteers, florists, ghosts, UPS workers and a host of other characters—Brinkley shatters Baldwin's thesis, masterfully demonstrating that witness and actor are one and the same. … Brinkley pierces the superficial and obvious—that what meets the eye is all there is to see—by displaying a more nuanced portrait of how we perceive and are perceived … Stylistically, the beginnings of these stories are akin to being thrust into a moving current—Brinkley doesn't waste time on unnecessary setup or trivial fluff. His smooth prose rips and slips down the page, getting right to the point … Brinkley is a writer whose versatility knows no boundaries. He can make you laugh, cry, contemplate life's deepest questions, remember what it was like to be a child, and feel the warmth, or chill, of your own family history. Tapping into the sticky stuff of humanity, each story is a gift of the highest quality, reminding us that we are all both in the audience and on life's stage, even if we don't know it.” –Mateo Askaripour on Jamel Brinkley's Witness ( The New York Times Book Review ) “Most of Patchett's work is directly or indirectly about the experience of being stuck in a difficult family. She is a connoisseur of ambivalent interpersonal dynamics within closed groups … Patchett is interested in how people, in families and elsewhere, come to terms with painful circumstances; how they press beauty from constraint, assuming artificial or arbitrary […]
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