Reviews

Friday Reads: August 2019

Curated by SARAH WHELAN

The Common is a proud recipient of a Whiting Literary Magazine Prize, and our staff are ready to celebrate! In conjunction with the Brooklyn Book Festival, you’re invited to join Whiting Prize winners The Common, Black Warrior Review, American Short Fiction, The Margins (Asian American Writers Workshop), and The Offing for an evening of literary merriment at LIC Bar in Long Island City. Event details can be found here

If you’re already as excited as we are, please enjoy this month’s Friday Reads as a special treat – featuring reviews from editors at all the winning publications.

Recommendations: When You Learn The Alphabet by Kendra Allen; Two Lives: A Memoir by Vikram Seth; The Year of Blue Water by Yanyi; Shade It Black: Death and After in Iraq by Jess Goodell; A Feather on the Breath of God by Sigrid Nunez.

Isabel MeyersFriday Reads: August 2019
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Review: Hurtling in the Same Direction – At Home in the New World

Book by MARIA TERRONE

Review by SUSAN TACENT

Cover of At Home in the New World

Maria Terrone’s grandparents were among the estimated nine million people who emigrated from Italy between 1881 and 1927. While her parents were born in the United States, her connection to Italy is deep, informing her identity and experiences as much as being a lifelong New Yorker has.

Elly HongReview: Hurtling in the Same Direction – At Home in the New World
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Review: Farewell, Aylis: A Non-Traditional Novel in Three Works

Book by AKRAM AYLISLI

Translated from Russian by KATHERINE E. YOUNG

Review by OLGA ZILBERBOURG

Image of blue book cover

Contemporary books emerging from post-Soviet countries often deal with the dehumanizing effect of the region’s systems of government on its victims, seeking to trace and partially redeem the psychological and physical harm many have suffered. For understandable reasons, few authors care to look at the perpetrators, at the people who committed murders and mass murders, informed on and denounced their neighbors. Yet, in the post-Soviet reality, often it’s these people and their descendants who have risen to the top, taken charge of the new nation states, and written their laws.

Sofia BelimovaReview: Farewell, Aylis: A Non-Traditional Novel in Three Works
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Review of Throw: A Novel

Book by RUBÉN DEGOLLADO

REVIEWED BY JEN HINST-WHITE

Cover of Throw

“If I’m going to tell you the story of how I lost two people who were closer than blood to me, I have to begin here in Dennett, Texas, during the summer between the sophomore and junior years of my life. This story begins as it ends, with me, Cirilo Izquierdo, waiting for what all of us spend our whole lives waiting for: not to be alone anymore.” — Throw: A Novel, by Rubén Degollado

If I offer you the words contemplative novel, you may not immediately picture—for example—someone getting stabbed in the leg with a pencil. You may not picture a tangle of high schoolers fighting and flirting, fueling rumors and throwing shade and roaming lowrider car shows.

Elly HongReview of Throw: A Novel
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Review of The Souvenir: Is She Really Going Out with Him?

Movie poster for The SouvenirBy HANNAH GERSEN

The Souvenir, British director Joanna Hogg’s fourth feature film, is the first part of a two-part memory piece that focuses on a love affair that took place in Hogg’s early twenties, when she was in film school in London. Though not quite a memoir, the film is unabashedly autobiographical, and similar to Alfonso Cuaron’s recent Roma in how it seeks to reconstruct a particular period in the director’s life. To play a version of herself, a young woman called Julie, Hogg has cast Honor Swinton Byrne, a newcomer who at this point in her life is best known as Tilda Swinton’s daughter—though her performance in The Souvenir and next year’s sequel will likely change that. Swinton herself plays Julie’s mother, Rosalind, tamping down her usual charisma to embody a meek matron who rarely exerts her influence or reveals her knowledge of the world. It’s startling to see Swinton this way, especially with Byrne nearby, exuding youth and curiosity. With her height and her red hair, Byrne looks enough like Swinton to bring to mind her mother’s glamour, but also has a calm dreaminess that it is all her own.

Isabel MeyersReview of The Souvenir: Is She Really Going Out with Him?
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Review: Mudflat Dreaming

Book by JEAN WALTON

REVIEWED BY WILL PRESTON 

Mudflat Dreaming cover

A few years ago, I made an impromptu road trip to a Canadian ghost town called Bradian. Tucked into the Chilcotin Mountains about five hours north of Vancouver BC, Bradian lies at the end of a forbidding 45-mile dirt road and was deserted in 1971 after the local gold mine closed. Despite its near-total inaccessibility, Bradian has become a strangely coveted object since its abandonment. The town has passed from one owner to the next, each with their own ludicrous plan for its empty streets: a retirement community, a sketchy immigration scheme, a drug smuggling operation. And as if rebuffing the unwanted advances of a long line of suitors, the town has foiled every attempt to claim it. (It’s currently on the market for $1.2 million.) Writing about Bradian for The Common in 2017, I saw its bizarre holdout as a parable for the tug-of-war between human conquest and the natural world, a reminder that not everywhere should be subject to the drumbeat of development.

Julia PikeReview: Mudflat Dreaming
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Friday Reads: April 2019

Curated by: SARAH WHELAN

Happy Launch Week! We are so delighted that Issue 17 is here in time for spring. After you’ve enjoyed these recommendations from some of our Issue 17 contributors, purchase your copy here. 

Recommendations: Be With by Forrest Gander, The World of Yesterday: Memoirs of a European by Stefan Zweig, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, Bridge of the World by Roberto Harrison

Flavia MartinezFriday Reads: April 2019
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Friday Reads: March 2019

Curated by: SARAH WHELAN

Issue 17 is almost here! Subscribe by March 31st to get your copy, then kick off the weekend with a book recommendation from one of our Issue 17 contributors. This month, our contributors are taking us on inventive narrative journeys across all seven continents and through all four corners of consciousness.

Recommendations: I, the Divine by Rabih Alameddine, Welcome Home by Lucia Berlin, Naming the No-Name Woman by Jasmine An, The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

Flavia MartinezFriday Reads: March 2019
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Birds of Passage: A Review

Birds of Passage Movie Poster

Movie directed by CIRO GUERRA and CRISTINA GALLEGO

Review by HANNAH GERSEN

 

From its joyous opening dance sequence to its melancholy ending, Birds of Passage (Pájaros de verano) is unlike any movie you have seen about illegal drug trafficking. It’s a gangster movie that downplays violence, looks closely at attempts at peacemaking, and is centered on the fate of a mother and a daughter. Set in Colombia between the late 1960s and early 1980s, the film is told from the perspective of a Wayúu family who live in the arid, northern region of the country and become significant exporters of marijuana to the U.S. Their success in the drug trade brings wealth, but it also pulls them into a world of violence and greed that engulfs and divides their family and their community.

Whitney BrunoBirds of Passage: A Review
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