Five Brazilian men, each a unique reflection of machismo, have grown up together and are now dying separately, reflecting on their lives of friendship, fallouts, and hedonism. Oh, and the people they’ve screwed over along the way. And you get to hear from everyone: half the book grants each man a final monologue, while the other half follows the survivors picking up the pieces they've left behind. Debut novelist Fernanda Torres has no desire to absolve these men, but she does achieve a wider generosity of spirit. Their exploits are told with just enough humor to give them tangible appeal and just enough pathos to make their side effects equally memorable.
In troubling times, the drive to escape everything for finer pursuits and the drive to immerse yourself fully in the muck can hit you simultaneously and with equal fervor. For that reason, it’s always welcome to find a book that’s perfect for scratching both itches, and Pereira Maintains is one of those books. Pereira is the culture editor at a Portuguese newspaper who is just beginning to understand the dark direction his country is taking, but in the meantime he fills out his days with the best spas and the best literature. There’s a playful spirit to Tabucchi’s perfectly streamlined writing, right down to the repeated use of the title on each page, and that energy might just be a necessary ballast in stormy weather.
Nathaniel Mackey might be best known as a poet—he’s won the National Book Award and received a Library of Congress lifetime achievement honor—but his most idiosyncratic work is an ongoing fiction series tracing the development of a California space-jazz group. This latest volume—a perfect introduction—is a beautiful thing, from its intricate epistolary structure to Mackey’s overwhelming language, which takes you deep inside the sounds of the instruments and the minds that make them sing. Tracking the group in microscopic, romantic, even surreal detail—from gig to gig, from idea to idea—gives you a novel unafraid to ask big questions of how artists relate to their art once it enters the audience’s lives.