Unai Elorriaga, Plants Don't Drink Coffee Child narrators often irritate me but this was well-drawn and charming enough that I forgive it. I don't think it will powerfully move anyone but it's a very graceful and thoughtful little creature of a book, the sort of long meander through interrelated family stories that I have a great deal of patience for. Its gentleness and kindness seem a bit unfashionable and thus rather loveable.
Nell Zink, The Wallcreeper I did not like this. A few moments of genuinely inspired and sparkling prose smeared over yet another glib dull story about tedious sex between apathetic affectless people. Everything this book had to say about men and women and geography and sex and feminism was exactly positioned to irritate me. (I did read the New Yorker profile of Zink earlier and suspected that I'd probably loathe her books but found her life story rather resonant.) Maybe I'm the wrong reader.
It was however a pretty interesting exercise in the line between 'well-calculated reference-dropping' and 'absolutely unbearable' – for the most part I thought that line was walked tolerably well, but a few were splendidly awful:
“I was raised on art and literature, the opiates of the intellectually underprivileged” (here I used the term for the poor in spirit from the Sermon on the Mount), “but I refuse to go on fiddling while Rome burns!”
“A life laid waste before it began,” I said, quoting Stephen’s frequent references to the profoundly discouraging climax of the classic Icelandic novel Independent People by Halldór Laxness.
(I do like Laxness but that was really a bit much.)
Elena Ferrante, The Days of Abandonment This is an Elena Ferrante book like other Elena Ferrante books, so you may already know whether or not you're going to like it. I did! I found it both more beautiful and more brutal than the Neapolitan novels. I don't want to pick on Wallcreeper any more but it's interesting to compare a typical Ferrante protagonist to the protagonist of that. I think they'd be allergic to each other.
Orhan Pamuk, Other Colors This is a collection of various Orhan Pamuk odds and ends. There are quite a few things to like here but I think you need to be quite sympathetic to Orhan P. to begin with (which I am) and forgive him for being quite possibly the most self-indulgently melancholy man alive. Read it for the translation of a foreword he wrote to a Turkish edition of Tristram Shandy, which is a confluence of some quite good things.
Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin I am he.