“The sleep of reason produces monsters.” These words can be found in an etching by Francisco Goya, reproduced at the beginning of Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (or 1,001 nights, that magical number). It’s a nightmarish image of a young man asleep, slumped over a table as a horde of wide-eyed and shadowy creatures bear down upon him.
The men of the American Wild West called it the “shining times,” when the law held no sway over any place beyond the Mississippi. This was the last true American independence, and though it died out a long time ago, the new novel from T.C. Boyle takes this tradition of renegades and turns it into something violent.
The death that launches Yiyun Li’s second novel, Kinder Than Solitude, has been a long time coming. Twenty years before, Shaoai was mysteriously poisoned by someone close to her, leaving her crippled and diminished. Her death comes as a great relief for the novel’s three main characters, Moran, Ruyu and Boyang—once childhood friends in China, but now estranged. But with that sigh of relief comes the truth.