Unheimlich children of Virginia Woolf and Oscar Wilde, the Modernist Novel and a decadent despairing of it, Aaron Kunin’s characters are embodied by speech—witty, philosophical, narratological. They speak and they think, occasionally, about problems of the novel, but just as often about slights, real or imagined; originary issues of form and content; things to eat and drink. They are “walking mind-body problems.” The volume of psychological realism and emotional force they acquire as they go along in fraught relation to one another comes therefore as a surprise boon, a delirious trick, a happy byproduct of their unimaginable contextualization in a Minneapolis they do not quite inhabit.
“The many minds of this novel perform thought with the hilarity and impertinence of a b-movie choir: their robes don’t match, they’re too busy talking to sing the songs, and their audience is asleep. However, where in most cases this would be a recipe for disaster, in The Mandarin, it proves the perfect combination for creating a new kind of iteration, one where knowledge is less something individually won than something collectively made. Aaron Kunin’s The Mandarin is a much-needed contribution to the future of fiction, and an absolute delight to read.”