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(Little, Brown and Company)

I have a bias against literary style—language that sentence by sentence calls attention to its own virtuosity (the trumpeting lyricism of Nabokov or Salter, the self-conscious solos of Foster Wallace or Pynchon, even the mannered minimalism of Hemingway, Carver, and all their children). How embarrassing, then, to admit how
much I adore San Franciscan Peter Orner’s second novel, about the life and heartbreaks of Alexander Popper and four generations of his gloriously screwed-up family. Love and Shame and Love is full of writing that forces you to stop every few pages just to copy out a sentence so fresh, elegant, and witty that you are afraid that forgetting it might actually harm you. On the MLK assassination: “But tonight, Dr. King is dead and Chicago is destroying itself in his honor.” On the difference between waiting and patience: “Patience he’ll never learn. But waiting. All you have to do is lie back in the rot and breathe.” At a funeral: “Oh, Miriam, I feel like I’m in a Fellini movie.” OK, for that last one you have to be there, with the Poppers at the funeral in question. And you will be there. Pretty sentences aside, Orner has written one of the year’s best novels. It leaves you certain that the Poppers aren’t fictional characters but real ones, waiting, impatiently, for your love. A