Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Magazine article The New Yorker

Briefly Noted

Article excerpt

Bleeding Edge

by Thomas Pynchon (Penguin Press).

In this noir farce, set in 2001, in the vortex of the dot-com boom, Maxine Tarnow is an Upper West Side mother, juggling two kids, a soon-to-be-ex husband, and a busy career as a fraud investigator. Her private-eye instincts lead her to a computer-security firm seeking control of the Deep Web, where, beyond the reach of search engines and other "surface crawlers," a reality simulator called DeepArcher (say it out loud) of-fers a newly precious commodity: escape from the chaos of "meatspace," also known as real life. The novel crackles with techno-geek jargon and Pynchon's usual wordplay. But his techies "don't do metaphysical," and neither does the novel: like an Escher staircase, its dizzy complications lead nowhere.

Burial Rites

by Hannah Kent (Little, Brown).

This bleak but gorgeously atmospheric debut is based on the life of the last woman to be executed in Iceland, in 1830. Agnes Magnusdottir is a pauper and a foster child, a girl accused all her life of being "too clever by half," who grows up to fall in love with an itinerant herbalist suspected of sorcery. When Agnes is convicted for his murder, along with that of another man, she is condemned to be beheaded. Awaiting execution, she is placed with a peasant family in a quiet valley and counselled by a priest. What the book lacks in surprises it more than makes up for in mood, setting, and memorable, complex characters.

The Red Man's Bones

by Benita Eisler (Norton).

In 1832, the Mandan Plains Indians invited George Catlin to view the O-kee-pa, their great religious ceremony, and to record what he saw there. …

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