Nick Hornby

American Ache

Blue River

By

Picador 224pp £14.99 order from our bookshop

To describe Emperor of the Air, Ethan Canin’s debut, as yet another collection of short stories by a young American with a Raymond Carver furation would be a little like describing Mrs Thatcher as a backbench MP – strictly accurate, but somewhat incomplete. The book caused something of a sensation in the States, where it was a bestseller (its author’s advance prompted one critic to mutter darkly about jealous competitors sticking pins in Canin voodoo dolls), and received superlative reviews over here. It really was good, too, full of sturdily built and lovingly detailed vignettes of California, all of which seemed (liked the best of Carver’s work) to wring resonance out of the flattest material. I would love to say, just once, that this is a second book which more than fulfils the promise of the first, that if you thought the debut was good, you should read this one, but in truth Blue River (Canin’s first novel) is a crunching, jarring disappointment.

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

Follow Literary Review on Twitter

  • Last Tweets

    • 'One of the reasons for its longevity is that it has virtually nothing to say about science and technology at all,… ,
    • 'The characters in many of these stories are trapped in the obsessive present tense of their own thoughts; in the m… ,
    • 'Libraries, for much of their existence, have embodied in microcosm many of the characteristics of the totalitarian… ,
    • 'Moss and Cynthia buy several properties through which to launder their ill-gotten gains, take lots of drugs, have… ,
    • 'Never mind the imperial cult. This is the cult of Boris. What happened to Rome?' From the LR archive:… ,
    • Thirty-two years ago this month, we published Muriel Spark's short story, 'A Playhouse Called Remarkable' Read it… ,
    • Time travel, bicycles and white horses populate @WomackPhilip's roundup of children's books by @marcussedgwick,… ,