Briefly Noted Book Reviews | the new yorker

The kissing insectby Daisy Hernandez (Tin House). “Other girls my age were taught to fear rabid dogs and horrible men,” Hernández writes in this study of the tropical disease Chagas, which killed her aunt. “I learned to be terrified 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 bug, and nine-thousand-year-old mummies in Chile infected with the disease. She also paints moving portraits of individual patients and writes about ‘the great spur fracture’ – medicine’s neglect of diseases that primarily affect people in developing countries and the divergent fates experienced by people suffering from income, poverty and poverty. of different origins and ethnicities.

On compromiseby Rachel Greenwald Smith (Graywolf). During the 2017 Women’s March, the covid-19 lockdown and the racial justice protests of the past year, these essays explore how liberalism’s reverence for the middle ground plays out in art and politics. Smith’s resourceful, omnivorous readings find evidence of what she calls “the aesthetics of compromise” throughout culture, from Barack Obama to autofiction. Juxtaposing the moderation of liberalism with what she sees as the fruitful absolutism of avant-garde movements, she challenges us to “find a way to compromise without celebrating it” and to differentiate “compromise as a means and compromise as an end”. ”

The single personby Andrew Palmer (Hogarth). Living alone in a house in Iowa, the protagonist of this self-aware first novel, himself a first novelist, hopes to “reset my life or retire quietly from it”. He is mired in romantic and literary self-doubt and spends his days corresponding with women who are also in limbo. Also captivated by the reality TV show “The Bachelor” and the poems of John Berryman, he begins to dwell on the lives of reality TV stars and the poet as if it were his own. Palmer’s novel ironically follows a serious interrogation 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 discover things about themselves.”

Worryby Zülfü Livaneli, translated from Turkish by Brendan Freely (Other Press). In this gripping novel, Ibrahim, an Istanbul-based journalist, returns to his native land on the Syrian border in search of a charming Yazidi woman who inadvertently caused the death of his childhood friend. As Ibrahim travels through the refugee camps where the people of women take shelter from the massacre perpetrated by Islamic State, the answers give rise to other mysteries. Understated and sad, Livaneli’s narrative grapples with an agonizing question: how should we live when such suffering means that, as Ibrahim puts it, we can no longer “bear hearing people talk about where to find the best sushi in Istanbul”?

Alycia R. Lindley