The weather is crisp and the reads are hot. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore put a smile on my face, All Gone made me thank my lucky stars, Familiar tripped me out, The News From Spain tugged at my heart and Do the Movies Have a Future? got me thinking about just how strange and tenuous cultural criticism can be in the first place. Check out this week’s reviews for The Daily Beast. Bonus feature: I recommended A Free Man for Newsweek’s round-up of essential new books on India.
Three pages into Quim Monzó’s new short story collection, the opening tale’s seven-year-old protagonist makes a startling discovery: everyone over the age of nine in his family of carpenters is missing the ring finger of his left hand, and it’s not by accident. Welcome to “Family Life,” which fits within the morbid boundaries of Guadalajara—a realm where fables are subverted, where rote tasks lead to existential confrontations, where absurdity masks philosophical heft, and where grim uncertainty and playful possibility coexist. Armand is terrified, and perhaps the reader should be too: in Monzó’s hands, the possibilities are limitless—and entirely unpredictable.