John Feinstein is one of the big names in sports journalism. He’s written books on a number of headline-getting sports stories and consequently can be heard often on sports radio as an expert guest. Feinstein’s background is as a newspaper guy, writing for the Washington Post among others. The Last Amateurs is about college basketball in the Patriot League, a (mostly) non-scholarship league that struggles to survive in the world of big time college ball. To Feinstein, this is one of the last bastions of unadulterated amateur basketball in the United States. These kids play for little more than the love of the game and the glory of winning the league’s one berth to the NCAA Tournament. He follows the seven teams from schools like Holy Cross, Lehigh, and Navy through a whole season, focusing on the personalities, on the struggles peculiar to this one of a kind league, and on the great basketball games that never came close to showing up on a Sportscenter highlight reel. Feinstein’s newsy writing and copious background anecdotes keep the book moving at a fast pace. It isn’t, however, the transcendent sports writing of a Roger Angell. Instead, the book reads like a dozen Sports Illustrated articles strung end to end. As such, this is a fantastic book for fans of college basketball, as it really captures what is best about that game.
Let’s just get this out of the way up front: Téa Obreht is the real deal. I am not the first to say this, nor, I suspect, will I be the last. Obreht, a Serbian-American who came to this country with her family as a young girl, was named last year by the New Yorker as one of the twenty best American writers under forty. She was twenty-four years old at the time, and her first novel, The Tiger’s Wife, hadn’t even come out yet. Since its publication last month, the book has been racking up rave reviews from grizzled veterans from across the literary universe, including Michiko Kakutani, the hangin’ judge of the New York Times book page, who called The Tiger’s Wife “a hugely ambitious, audaciously written work.” For once, the hype is deserved. The Tiger’s Wife is very much a first novel, awkwardly constructed in places and given to occasional longueurs, but still by far the most startling, bizarro-brilliant debut since Colson Whitehead’s The Intuitionist in 1999. The Tiger’s Wife interweaves three central stories, each involving a young Serbian doctor Natalia Stefanovic and her grandfather, who was also a doctor. The first, and least successful, of these stories takes place after the Balkan War as Natalia and another young doctor cross into a neighboring region of her newly divided country to provide medicine for children orphaned by her side’s soldiers. Along the way, she learns that her beloved grandfather has died after embarking on a mysterious journey to a small town an hour’s drive where she is headed. The old man told the family that he was coming to see Natalia, and the rest of the novel is structured as a kind of detective story in which Natalia unravels for herself, and for the reader, why he may have done this. Already, you can see part of the problem: This is one of those books in which all the important stuff has already happened. The war is over, the narrator’s grandfather is dead, and for large chunks of the novel Obreht marks time, filling pages with quirky small-town folk and an odd band of sickly, gypsy-like peasants digging seemingly random holes in a vineyard near where Natalia is dispensing her medicine. To make matters worse, Obreht often leaves out the details of the characters’ nationality and ethnic background. For instance, I have said that Natalia is Serbian, but that’s just an educated guess. She doesn’t reveal her nationality and refers to her home – which must be Belgrade – only as The City. Though she refers to a number of well-known atrocities, the cities and regions appear under invented names. I can understand why Obreht, who was only seven when her family fled Belgrade in 1992, may have done this. She missed the war in her home country and may well feel squeamish about putting too fine a point on the crimes carried out by, and against, the Serbs. She may well also have decided – or may have been told by some editor who, if there is any justice in the world, is sitting in the bowels of the Random House building boxing his own ears – that by being coy with the facts, she could “universalize” the story, make it accessible to clueless American readers. But as a clueless American reader, I was just confused. At one point, when Natalia visits the small town where her grandfather died, a bartender who was the last man to see her grandfather alive warns her against poking around any further: “And I wouldn’t go door-to-door round here, Doctor…Not with that accent.” It’s a nice moment, but until the bartender spoke I’d forgotten that Natalia was a Serb walking unprotected around a province – Croatia? Macedonia? Bosnia? – that her countrymen had attacked a few years earlier. So, as talented as Obreht is, for much of the novel I found myself admiring her book more than I enjoyed reading it. Then I came to the two stories that fill in her father’s history: “The Deathless Man” and “The Tiger’s Wife.” Every early review I’ve seen has resorted to calling these stories “fables” or “magical realism,” but that’s just because we don’t have a good term for what is so sui generis in Obreht’s work. These are fables, of a sort, but fables as they might appear in some cracked Disney film illustrated by Pieter Bruegel and Robert Crumb, with Salvador Dali coming in every now and then to touch up the scenery. The Deathless Man is Gavran Gailé, who is cursed not only never to die, but also to know the precise moment of death for every person he meets. He carries a magic cup in his coat given to him by his uncle, who is Death, and as Gavran explains to Natalia’s grandfather, his uncle has charged him to make coffee for the gravely ill and read the grounds at the bottom of the cup after the drinker has finished: In this cup, the lives of men come and go. Give the man coffee from this cup and you will see the journeys of his life…If he is sick, but not dying, the paths in the coffee will be still and constant. Then you must make him break the cup, and you must send the drinker on his way. But if he is coming to me, the paths will point away from the drinker, and then the cup must remain unbroken until he crosses my path. Needless to say, Natalia’s grandfather, a man of science, a rationalist, is maddened by this imperturbable little fortune-teller and tries to prove that Gavran is a charlatan until, in a gorgeously rendered scene, they meet on a hotel balcony overlooking a besieged Muslim town that the doctor knows will be razed the following morning. But it is the third story, the one of a woman who falls in love with a tiger, that vaults Obreht’s novel from the pleasingly quirky to the insanely great. Part allegory, part bildungsroman, this tale, told from the perspective of Natalia’s grandfather when he was a nine-year-old boy in the early months of the Second World War, follows a tiger freed from his cage when the zoo is destroyed by German bombs. The tiger, “yellow-eyed and bright as a blood moon,” is first sighted high on a ridge above the small mountain town where Natalia’s grandfather grew up, but soon the famished beast is making forays into the village where, as Natalia’s young grandfather soon learns, he is being harbored by the deaf-mute wife of the town’s coarse and violent butcher. This is a novel that moves crab-wise, by digression, and early on this can be annoying, but with “The Tiger’s Wife” sections, which arrive in small, savory slices wedged between the more bland chunks of framing plot, frustration turns to delicious anticipation. Even her most minor characters are given elaborate back stories, each one more baroque and wondrously implausible than the last, which, when taken together, create a vivid, indelible portrait of a village that could only exist in a story, but all the same is more real than any place you will ever visit. This, finally, I think, is Obreht’s theme, that the stories we tell ourselves are more real than the world we see with our two eyes. This can have fatal consequences, as when the story we tell ourselves is that the Muslim family that has lived next to ours for generations, is in fact part of a barbarian horde that must be driven from the land. Obreht is all too aware of this dark side of storytelling, but she seems to be saying that we cannot live without stories, that we create them naturally, spontaneously, in order to understand those wild edges of our world we cannot make sense of with our eyes alone. In one early flashback scene, set during the bombing of Belgrade, Natalia’s grandfather takes her out onto the street to see yet another zoo animal, in this case an elephant, freed from his cage by war. “No one will ever believe this,” Natalia tells him as the elephant passes them by. Her grandfather is incredulous: “You must be joking,” he said. “Look around. Think for a moment. It’s the middle of the night, not a soul anywhere… Not a dog in the gutter. Empty. Except for this elephant – and you’re going to tell your idiot friends about it? Why? Do you think they’ll understand it? Do you think it will matter to them?” The Tiger’s Wife is Natalia’s – and Obreht’s – answer: I can make them understand, they seem to be saying, I can make them care, but only if I tell the story well enough.
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If Facebook is making us sad, as a recently published study suggests, by seeming to crop from the picture all things unpleasant, presenting modern life as a sort of celebrity marriage, smiley, brittle and always going somewhere eager with cameras, then the call for meaningful fiction is to restore to the reader some sense of life as it could be, once was and would be again, but for the feeling to make it so. Good fiction colors our understanding of modernity, the train roaring obliviously forward. It sparks in negative space, what gets left behind. Carol Ann Page, one of six protagonists populating Kevin Brockmeier’s third novel The Illumination, nearly severs her thumb while cutting open a package from her ex-husband, its tip separating “like the hinged cap of a lighter.” Awaiting surgery, she finds that her wound has begun to glow – and not hers alone. Across the globe, individual pain has begun to emit light, a phenomenon newscasters label “The Illumination.” Carol Ann’s job is to create newsletters, assembling for her market-minded employer a listing of headlines that could sway the Dow’s money-flooded wavering. This world where pain shines out, making quaint any social network’s gloss, is the headline of moment for Brockmeier, one he unreels from thin air. Wonders disaster magnet Ryan Shifrin, a missionary, featured in the novel’s fourth section: “Was it discourteous to admit that you could see a person’s sickness playing out on the surface of his body?” The Illumination is philosophically rich. Absent, though, are sequences of sweeping wonder, commuters leaving open car doors dinging, the arthritic mother’s curled hand turned blindingly bright, a daughter crying at her feet. The Hollywood, that is. Instead, the great majority of people ticker by like notations on a reel, an effect Brockmeier duly cultivates. The novel’s final protagonist, Morse Putnam Strawbridge, a vagabond bookseller for whom the streets are home, observes passersby: On the corner, beneath the black canopy of a newsstand, he saw an abscessed tooth blazing like a newborn star. The stacked blocks of a degenerative disk disorder came leaning out a taxi. Behind the window of the drugstore were a pair of inflamed sinuses, by the counter a shimmering configuration of herpes blisters, on the bench a lambent haze of pneumonia. There is a lot of this sort of thing, visible maladies without people behind them. No Irvine Welsh, no Jeanette Winterson, no Bob Dylan - nothing nearing visceral incoherence here. An adept of sci-fi, a maestro of metaphor - The Illumination teems with it - Brockmeier is much more the miniaturist, excelling at the otherworldly, while taking intense interest in arcana, whether of character, practice or feeling. The novel’s uniting thread is a journal passed intentionally, and otherwise, from one character to the next. Within its pages, in a deceased woman’s handwriting, is a collation of her husband’s "I love you" notes, one of which he wrote for every day of their marriage. (J. Robert Lennon has an unnervingly funny spin on this kind of passion in flash fiction piece “Flowers” from the collection Pieces for the Left Hand.) It is exactly the Babel-like vertigo of such a project, a love note for every day – every day – of a marriage, that Brockmeier makes the centerpiece of his novel, and an ample one at that. For the chances that it will lose its original meaning, just like those maladies strolling by in the streets, are legion. Carol Ann, having been gifted the journal at the hospital immediately prior to its subject’s passing, wills a relationship to the words on the page from her empty house: “I love to wake up in the middle of the night and listen to you sleeping (Carol Ann, she added): the funny noises you make when you dream, the tiny pop of your lips separating.” “You’re too sweet,” Carol Ann says back to the journal, “Stop it.” Conceptually resonant, The Illumination opens up a flood of dramatic possibility it never quite harnesses. Would standards of beauty change, the photogenic and suffering claiming coverage over the callow and posturing? Is it possible the healthy might begin to envy the ill’s glow – or, conversely, find stigmatizing them to be simpler? (One section, among the novel’s best, does track attention-starved teens carving up their bodies for effect.) Would the elderly, in their abundance of light, attract greater reverence? Would boxing become as popular as football, a veritable fireworks display, competitors honing in on their opponents’ most brilliant spots, blinded in the approach to triumph? How would boardroom deal-making differ if the entire room could see Ken Lay’s stomach flip when professing that the fundamentals of his company were sound? What about the divide between bodily and psychological pain? What we get instead, among the lonely assortment, is Nina Poggione, a novelist with a mysterious illness, sores blossoming on her mouth one after the other, the worst kind of light show. At a book signing, she receives a t-shirt that reads ‘FICTIONAL CHARACTER.’ Engraving signature after signature on the page she marvels at its form, the limit of her agonized apprehension: “It was like the pattern she had once watched a moth draw with its wings in the condensation on her bathroom mirror.”
The salient aspect of Jonathan Lethem's latest novel, You Don't Love Me Yet, is that by the end each character has found his and her level. It's quite something: of the seven or so characters there are no winners and no losers. The author's conscientious diplomacy imbues a basically playful book with a certain airy dignity.Hard to deny that Lethem is a virtuoso prose writer. He is a prize fighter sparring with plot lines in a ring of words. Like the best boxers, Lethem masters the ring - makes it his home - and approaches his craft without fear of getting hurt. Language is for him a sweet science. But just as interesting as the stick and move of the words in You Don't Love Me Yet is the nature of the story. I was impressed with the way in which Lethem approached the complexities and complications inherent to crafting a female lead character, one who comes across as rather emotionally ambiguous - as opposed to Good. Or maybe Lucinda, 29, is simply young.Lucinda is the bass player in the band, Monster Eyes, a position she relishes for good reason: she's good at it, self-taught and attuned to the varied musical voices that comprise the group. But she is impulsive, indulgent, and easily taken in by The Complainer, a man she meets over what is meant to be an anonymous call-line for which she is an operator. The implication is that Lucinda is both the creative catalyst of the band and also its Yoko Ono. Although her bass playing is the glue that ties the band's songs together, and The Complainer's words the inspiration for the lyrics in the band's most popular number, her lusty infatuation with the seductive older man corrupts the band's artistic integrity. But along the way Monster Eyes does get a moment in the sun.I "read" this book by listening to it on 5 CDs, performed by the author, unabridged. I use the word performed for good reason. Lethem has innate ability in this area too. He is able to read his work without self-consciousness and with a satisfying definitiveness, a pitch-perfect and distinct voice for each character. Bedwin, the band's guitar player and musical soul, phrases everything he says as a question. It's funny, but it also adds depth to the character, who is shy and introverted. Meanwhile The Complainer speaks in lugubrious platitudes. Because we hear The Complainer's words through Lucinda's ear, one trained for catchiness and not so much profundity, they initially come across as penetrating. But as the book goes on, insights such as "You can't be deep without a surface," in some ways the tart and tangy center of the book's social wisdom, seem trite and tedious. The act of listening to Lethem read his book seemed appropriate because the book is based around sound, the sound of people making music, both literally and, yes, figuratively. I highly recommend the audio version of You Don't Love Me Yet, while wondering if I would have gotten as much out of it if I had merely read it off the page.The book contains one or two very fine descriptions of ensemble music-making (and a not-inconsiderable dose of sexual steaminess, mm). And yet, one provocative suggestion in Lethem's construct is that rock and roll lyrics are often shallow, transparent. The implication is that the resonance of rock lyrics depends not so much on objective quality - complexity, poetic feeling - so much as indelibility, the rhythmic imprint of the words on the mind, a pattern, a universally recognizable hook. And indeed, Lethem isolates and describes exactly that quality of good rock and roll lyrics that appeals to individuals: a song you connect with is "about you." The irony is that those lyrics actually capture a colloquial value that is meant to appeal to many. Rock lyrics are rarely lyrical, but when they're good, you know it. Twist and Shout; Fake Plastic Trees - same principle.My resolution, the turnaround if you will, is that Jon Lethem has written another very readable (and perfectly listenable) book. I could expound on the L.A.-ness of it all, but will instead assume that this setting is an aberrant and tangential element of the story. It really could be New York. And I think no matter where your heart is, it is an appealing kind of tale, made for you, me, the cool kids in Silverlake who play in the band, and everybody else.
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1. Mohsin Hamid’s new novel Exit West begins in an unnamed city fractured by political violence. There, two young people come together as everything around them is breaking apart. Nadia is a cultural rebel who wears a full black robe, “so men don’t fuck with [her]” as she traverses the city on her motorcycle. Saeed is a devoted son who wears “studiously maintained stubble” and passes quiet evenings on the balcony, gazing out at the city rather than immersing himself in it. Before these patient lovers make the exit promised by the novel’s title, and compelled by the tightening grip of civil war, Nadia ventures beyond the city through her phone, which she rides into and over the world, watching “bombs falling, women exercising, men copulating, waves tugging at the sand like the rasping licks of so many mortal, temporary, vanishing tongues.” Registering both brutality and beauty, the planetary sight that Nadia simulates here mirrors that aspired to by Hamid’s powerful book. The novel traces Nadia and Saeed’s journey from their home city to the island of Mykonos, to London, and finally to the hills of California -- a route of escape if not liberation enabled by a series of magical doors, portals that highlight through omission the unrepresentable terror of the passages in between. Progress through them -- which is “both like dying and like being born” -- is attained not just by the novel’s protagonists but by several people its panoramic vision only ephemerally registers: a man with “dark skin and dark, wooly hair” struggles out of a closet door in Sydney; two Filipina women emerge from a disused door at the rear of a bar in Tokyo; a young woman slips out of a black door in a Tijuana cantina; a Tamil family wanders out of an interior service door below a cluster of “blond-and-glass” luxury towers in Dubai. “The whole planet,” in the near future inhabited by the novel, “was on the move.” Hamid is interested in the conditions of that movement and in its disparate effects. Exit West evinces the stark divisions of wealth and security that provoke migration, the myriad walls that inhibit it, and the nativism to which it gives rise. But the basic fact of movement, if a cause and consequence of profound violence, also signals, in the novel, the more hopeful potentialities of planetary interconnection. This dialectical sensibility is in keeping with Hamid’s broader oeuvre. Centering on Pakistan and its entanglement in global histories of imperialism and capitalism, his fiction and essays -- from the novel Moth Smoke, to the recent collection of dispatches Discontent and Its Civilizations -- have explored the relationship between here and there, self and other, in a way that holds in tension difference and sameness, contradiction and affiliation. Exit West elaborates this conceptual focus -- tracing the fissures in human community and global space, and reflecting on the possibility of their transcendence. 2. The “dramatic monologue” that comprises Hamid’s second novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, is staged at an outdoor café in a busy Lahore marketplace. It is delivered by Changez -- a young Pakistani university lecturer and possible militant, who formerly held an elite position at an eminent Manhattan financial firm -- to a silent and ambiguously motivated American listener. Over a long and increasingly tense meal, Changez instructs his companion in the historical relationship between Pakistan and the United States. He details the continuities between the long history of the British empire in South Asia and the more recent expression of U.S. power in the region under the sign of a “War on Terror.” And he impresses as well the intimate connections, in the current conjuncture, between perpetual war and pervasive neoliberal depredation. Changez’s didactic address, though, is met by his mute guest not with affirmation but with the implied threat of assassination. Whatever its pedagogical impact on the reader, the novel dramatizes empathic failure and the persistence -- in the consciousness of the west -- of geographic and historical blindness. Continuing the project of redressing this myopia, Hamid’s third novel, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, illuminates the unevenly borne human and ecological costs of capitalist “development.” Appropriating the form of a self-help book, and joining it to the more traditional apparatus of the bildungsroman, the novel is narrated in the second person. “You” begin the story as a child in a poor South Asian village and end it on your hospital death bed, having accumulated -- and then lost -- a personal fortune via the purification and commoditization of municipal water. The use of the second person conflates the consumer of the tale and its anonymous hero. But the novel’s periodic shifts in perspective work to refuse any easy sense of identification between reader and protagonist. For the bulk of the narrative, as when you and your family are conveyed by an overcrowded bus “from rural remoteness to urban centrality,” we regard the world through your eyes. In certain moments, though, as when you are stooped in grief at your brother’s funeral, we observe you from above, through the lens of a drone -- that essential technology of occupation that not only sees but also delimits and even negates the lives of those below. The unmanned aerial vehicles that hover above the action in How to Get Filthy Rich, surveying and surveilling the world, are ever-present too in Exit West. “Unseen but never far from people’s minds,” they act as a metaphor for the totalizing but often invisible powers that govern us. Like capital or the state, the drone sees but cannot be seen; it is everywhere and nowhere; it generalizes vulnerability but is itself seemingly invulnerable; the “security” it avows obscures the insecurity it produces. When the Tamil family takes their first tentative steps into the Dubai sunlight, they are captured by a “small quadcopter drone hovering fifty meters above,” which alerts security officers to their presence. As the efficient trajectory of the “uniformed men” intersects with their own, the family are “intercepted and led away, apparently bewildered, or overawed, for they held hands and did not resist or scatter or run.” Passing through one door and then another, alighting in Greece and then England, Nadia and Saeed escape the twinned fates of detention and deportation. But they continue to be tracked by the same “flying robots” that patrolled the city of their birth. As the ubiquity of the drone reveals, the line that marks the boundary between the rich countries—who “were building walls and fences and strengthening their borders” -- and the poor ones is redrawn within the societies of the former. On Mykonos, Nadia and Saeed occupy the periphery of one of the migrant camps, which itself lies beyond the outskirts of the island’s old town -- a popular tourist attraction that the migrants are discouraged, through the implied threat of police reprisal, from visiting. In London, a combination of government forces and private legions launch a campaign to “reclaim Britain for Britain,” to mend the “black holes in the fabric of the Nation.” Confined to one such black hole, the migrant zone of once-posh Chelsea and Kensington, Nadia and Saeed again feel their world shrinking. Surrounded by “soldiers and armored vehicles,” they are monitored from above by helicopter, drone, and surveillance balloon. When the government cuts the electricity in migrant-occupied neighborhoods, the existence of two Londons -- one dark and one light -- is clarified. Nadia and Saeed have escaped one civil war, but there is, they increasingly come to appreciate, no exit from the civil war that is also a world war -- the essential antagonism between the possessed and the dispossessed, the rights-bearing citizen and the rightless denizen. Nadia wonders “whether she and Saeed had done anything by moving, whether the faces and buildings had changed but the basic reality of their predicament had not.” The enduring precariousness of the migrants’ lives, though, does not preclude the genesis of new social forms. The camps on Mykonos are inhabited by people “falling within a band of brown that ranged from dark chocolate to milky tea,” who speak “in a cacophony that was the languages of the world.” In this context, “everyone was foreign, and so, in a sense, no one was.” This emergent understanding of difference as sameness is deepened, for Nadia especially, in London. There, she and Saeed find themselves resident in a sprawling house -- evidently absent its lawful owners but convivially occupied by Nigerians, Somalis, and others “from as far west as Guatemala and as far east as Indonesia.” The house’s council meetings, while dull, represent “something new in her mind, the birth of something new” -- the idea of a polity founded on the exigencies of mutual survival, wherein difference is the source of the universal rather than its violent corollary. 3. In our own time—of emboldened ethno-nationalisms—the political realization of this demotic cosmopolitanism often feels very far away. But the nativist responds to the migrant with such violence because they see their own insecurity, whether actual or latent, reflected in the presence of those who have already lost so much. And the possibility thus exists that fear will give way to solidaristic recognition. This alternative route is hinted, in Exit West, by the evolving confrontation between dark London and light. As the weeks pass, the “natives and their forces stepped back from the brink”: Perhaps they had grasped that the doors could not be closed, and new doors would continue to open, and they had understood that the denial of coexistence would have required one party to cease to exist, and the extinguishing party too would have been transformed in the process. The enlightened refusal of outright genocide, however, does not preface a radical transformation of London’s social and economic geography. The migrants are not welcomed to light London but corralled in the formerly protected greenbelt around the city, which has been opened up to the construction of new urban settlements and named the “London Halo.” Resident in a worker camp, circled by a security fence, Nadia and Saeed trade their labor -- clearing land, assembling prefabricated dwellings -- for “a home on forty square meters and a connection to all the utilities of modernity.” This “forty meters and a pipe” is an obvious evocation of the “forty acres and a mule” promised (but never granted) to the formerly enslaved in the closing stages of the U.S. Civil War. It summons, in other words, another deferred emancipation -- an extant history that Nadia and Saeed learn more about when they pass through one final door and arrive on the west coast of North America, in the new city of Marin, where they fashion a shanty in the vacant hills above town. As the fog descends and lifts, Nadia and Saeed drift apart, surely but not violently, and toward new companions. Saeed is drawn to the daughter of a local preacher, a woman descended “from the human beings who had been brought from Africa to this continent centuries ago as slaves.” Of that history, Saeed comes to understand that “society had been shaped in reaction to it, and unspeakable violence had occurred in relation to it, and yet it endured, fertile, a stratum of soil that perhaps made possible all future transplanted soils.” The link Saeed feels to this particular narrative of dislocation, of loss and struggle, is derived in part from a newfound spiritual devotion. In prayer, Saeed “touched a feeling that we are all children who lose our parents, all of us, every man and woman and boy and girl, and we too will be lost by those who come after us and love us, and this loss united humanity, every human being, the temporary nature of our being-ness.” In such instances -- as when Hamid writes that “we are all migrants through time” -- the political contradictions Exit West has so vividly rendered are dissolved by the revelation of transcendental humanness. The universality the novel more urgently invokes, though, is grounded in the contingent and contested terrain of social life. Our contemporary moment is marked by a crisis of futurity -- a collective inability to imagine any alternative to the supposed “end of history,” the eternal neoliberal present. But by the final pages of Exit West, in the wake of an apocalypse that “was not apocalyptic,” this malaise is yielding to “plausible desirable futures...unimaginable previously, but imaginable now.” These other worlds are made audible, in Marin, by the flourishing of new musical ensembles -- “humans with humans, humans with electronics, dark skin with light with gleaming metal with matte plastic” -- and given a concrete political shape by nascent regional assemblies, experimental democratic formations that exist in opposition to “those other entities for which some humans were not human enough to exercise suffrage.” The polyglot soundscape of the migrant camps on Mykonos is “what one might hear if they were a communications satellite” -- a planetary perspective that recalls the one Nadia first realizes virtually on her phone, and that Exit West itself claims. Orbiting earth, Hamid’s novel maps the divides that structure the current global order. But it also charts one necessary future, the advent of what Aimé Césaire called a “humanism made to the measure of the world.”