Briefly Rated Book Reviews | The New Yorker
The kiss bug, by Daisy Hernández (Tin House). “Other girls my age have been taught to fear rabid dogs and horrible men,” writes Hernández in this study on the tropical disease Chagas, which killed his aunt. “I’ve learned to be afraid of an insect the size of my fingernail.” The bedbug, from the Triatominae subfamily, is a vector of a parasite that can hide in the human body for decades and can fatally damage the heart and gastrointestinal system. Hernández discusses ongoing research, young Darwin’s encounter with the virus, and nine-thousand-year-old Chilean mummies infected with the disease. She also paints a moving portrait of individual patients and writes about ‘the great corn fracture’ – medicine’s neglect of diseases that primarily affect people in developing countries and the divergent destinies of those suffering from income, d ‘different origins and ethnicities.
On compromise, by Rachel Greenwald Smith (Graywolf). By going through the 2017 Women’s March, covid– 19 foreclosure, and the racial justice protests of the past year, these essays explore how the reverence of middle ground liberalism plays out in art and politics. Smith’s ingenious, omnivorous readings find evidence of what she calls “the aesthetic of compromise” across culture, from Barack Obama to self-fiction. Juxtaposing the moderation of liberalism with what she sees as the fruitful absolutism of the avant-garde movements, she challenges us to “find a way to make compromises without celebrating them”, and to differentiate “between compromise. as a means and compromise as an end. “
The single person, by Andrew Palmer (Hogarth). Living alone in a house in Iowa, the protagonist of this self-conscious first novel, himself a novice novelist, hopes to “reset my life or get away from it”. He is mired in romantic and writer self-doubt and spends his days corresponding with women who are also in limbo. Also delighted by the reality show “The Bachelor” and the poems of John Berryman, he begins to inhabit the lives of reality stars and the poet as if it were his own. Palmer’s novel ironically follows a serious questioning of art and individuality: “I would discover something about myself, and by making this process of self-discovery visible on the page, the book would also be an invitation to readers to find out things about themselves. “
Worry, by Zülfü Livaneli, translated from Turkish by Brendan Freely (Other press). In this gripping novel, Ibrahim, a journalist from Istanbul, returns to his homeland, on the Syrian border, in search of a charming Yazidi woman who inadvertently caused the death of her childhood friend. While Ibrahim combs the refugee camps where the woman’s people take shelter from the massacre perpetrated by Daesh, the answers give rise to other mysteries. Sober and sad, Livaneli’s tale comes up against an agonizing question: how should we live when such suffering means that, as Ibrahim puts it, we can no longer “bear to hear people talk about where to buy.” the best sushi in Istanbul ”?