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Tunde, a photographer and art professor at Harvard, attempts to photograph a hedge in his neighbourhood in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Waved away by a white property owner suspicious of a Black man on his street, Tunde tries again midway through Teju Cole’s new novel, Tremor, but, trusting his feeling of unease, leaves. (One is put in mind of the notorious 2009 incident in which neighbours reported Henry Louis Gates Jr for trying to force open his own Cambridge front door.) It is not until the final pages that Tunde returns to the scene and tries again, in the dead of night, after a party he has hosted with his partner, Sadako. The first exposure is too bright, the second too inky; too much is in frame, then not enough. Finally, he makes what he believes might be a successful image. Makes not takes; the difference is significant.

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Grief and love in America are the subjects of Lorrie Moore’s new novel, which is part surreal road trip, part love story, and partly made of letters from a woman to her late sibling. Finn, a school teacher suspended for some of his unorthodox ideas about history, attends the bedside of his dying brother, Max, but is then drawn away by his fatal attraction to a suicidal ex-lover, Lily, right around the time of the 2016 election. His story is interspersed with letters written by Elizabeth, an innkeeper, to her dead sister in the aftermath of the American Civil War. Clever, cranky, bitter, and witty, Elizabeth describes herself as ‘unreconciled to just about everything’. The two parts of the narrative are themselves unreconciled, mostly; the connections between them remain oblique, with a lot of space for the reader to imagine different points of association.

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Shy by Max Porter

May 2023, no. 453

In his preamble to a playlist for Faber Radio, Max Porter writes: ‘So much injustice but so much beauty, life is short and strange and I better run upstairs and tell these noisy little shits [my children] how much I love them.’ The quote would be an apt epigraph for Porter’s splendid new novel, Shy. The story of a troubled teen (Shy) who lives in a special education facility housed in a ‘shite old mansion … in the middle of bumblefuck nowhere’, Shy is a concise and compassionate piece of writing, one that reveals, within the ‘brambly and wild’ existence of a group of psychologically damaged boys, moments of spine-tingling transcendence. 

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Other Colours: Essays and a Story by Orhan Pamuk (trans. By Maureen Freely)

April 2008, no. 300

Media discussion of the 2006 Nobel Prize winner, Orhan Pamuk, tends to focus on his political persecution at the hands of the Turkish state. Pamuk concedes that history has forced him to don a ‘political persona’, one that journalists and literary festival audiences are keen to encounter. Yet Pamuk’s new collection of essays, Other Colours: Essays and a Story, reveals where politics (or political commentary) and the writer of imaginative thinking part company.

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