Paul Mandelbaum Recommends

“I just finished reading Josip Novakovich’s wonderful novel April Fool’s Day,” Mandelbaum says. “It chronicles the life of one Ivan Dolinar, a Croatian whose knack for being in the wrong place at the wrong time makes him a useful guide to that hauntingly perverse pocket of the world, the Balkans. Spanning fifty-plus recent years, the book naturally devotes some of its attention to war and its horrors (in a particularly chilling scene, Ivan comes across the crucified body of a Muslim friend from medical school), but the novel’s main focus is Ivan’s struggle for survival and a meaningful existence. Novakovich’s vision encompasses the broadly philosophical and the minutely sensory; his voice is inviting and compelling, morally alert without being moralistic, and he never loses sight of what makes for a good story.”

Paul Mandelbaum is the author of Garrett in Wedlock, part of which appears in the Winter issue of Glimmer Train Stories. He also edited the anthology First Words: Early Writings From Favorite Contemporary Authors, including juvenilia by Margaret Atwood, Rita Dove, Stephen King, Maxine Hong Kingston, John Updike and others.