Bolaño’s best novel takes the form of a deathbed confession from a Chilean Jesuit priest called Father Urrutia. The Father’s dark memories and the agonies of his country’s history haunt this night-long monologue. “By Night in Chile” is a spellbinding, slim narrative; it remains a must-read for anyone who values brilliant satire, or who takes issue with dictatorships. The story is hard to stop once you start.
Word’s pick: “The Wanderers” by Meg Howrey
This beautiful, funny, and fascinating tale of astronauts training for their mission to Mars calls into question the assumed glories of sacrifice and adventure and the motives of the tech giants funding our colonization of space. Howrey manages to write a thrilling adventure both in terms of plot and her characters’ internal stories. What is real and unreal becomes ever more difficult to distinguish, as reality unravels in this dynamic novel.
— Hannah Oliver Depp, Word [126 Franklin St. at Milton Street in Greenpoint, (718) 383–0096, www.wordbo
In “Bright Magic,” Alfred Doblin channels Ambrose Bierce and Edgar Allen Poe to craft a montage of strange and supernatural short stories. We learn of a society that has renounced language, raising generations in silence and printing daily editions of blank newspapers. In another story, a spiritualist organization contacts the dead to testify in their own murder trials. And in the sublime final fable, the natural world learns of the human philosophy of materialism — animals are shocked to learn they have no souls, and the laws of nature are upended, leading eventually to the revolt of atoms themselves against their mechanistic masters. A brilliant and utterly unique collection.
— Samuel Partal, Community Bookstore [43 Seventh Ave. between Carroll Street and Garfield Place in Park Slope, (718) 783–3075, www.commun