My Revolutions

Hari Kunzru's third novel, My Revolutions, opens with a man on the run. Mike Frame, a devoted husband and father living in a London suburb, is about to celebrate his 50th birthday, but he's got a real midlife crisis on his hands: his past as an underground terrorist in the 1970s has caught up with him. When an old acquaintance threatens to reveal his true identity as radical revolutionary Chris Carver, Mike/Chris flees his comfortable life and goes in search of a former lover, a notorious female bomber who may or may not still be alive. As he runs, Mike/Chris floats in and out of his memories as a disaffected youth, war protester, social crusader, hippie drug addict, and cleaned-up suburban family man. My Revolutions blends two themes found in Kunzru's previous novels -- identity transformation (The Impressionist) and social anarchy (Transmission) -- into a story that never quite takes off like it should. Structurally, the novel is superb as Kunzru moves seamlessly between the present and the past; and we travel through memory as if we're riding a M”bius strip. But My Revolutions lacks the spark to finally lift it off the page. Though we're told about our antihero's emotional dilemma and his slogan-heavy past ("We thought it had been given to us to kick-start the new world"), we never quite feel it. Kunzru presents us with a man held at arm's length and clinically examined, as if by a bomb expert carefully cutting the red wire. There is no explosion. -

April 23: " 'A job,' the woman repeated again, smiling, as if I hadn't heard her. 'Would you like one?' "

Kenneth Calhoun (Black Moon) and Lysely Tenorio (Monstress) of the Discover Great New Writers program on B-movies, heritage, and finales.

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
A Private Venus

Dubbed "the Italian Simenon," Giorgio Scerbanenco (1911-1969) began his crime-writing career with books set in the USA, but quickly shifted scene closer to home, the city of Milan.  In this adventure, appearing in English for the first time, his underdog hero Dr. Duca Lamberti finds himself in the middle of a seedy, scantily clad criminal racket, where the presence of an outsider could result in death.

The Promise of Hope

Killed last year in the infamous terror attack at Nairobi's Westgate mall, Kofi Awoonor was a national treasure in his native Ghana.  His career began in 1964 with Rediscovery, and this magnum opus serves as a tribute to his entire long journey charting his beloved nation's course through his accomplished poetry.

Winter Mythologies and Abbots

A pair of linked stories finds that, as translator Ann Jefferson relates, "[Pierre] Michon's great theme is the precarious balance between belief and imposture, and the way the greatest aspirations can be complicated by physical desire or the equally urgent desire for what he calls glory."