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Books in brief: Parasol against the Axe; Teeth: An Oral History; Say Hello To My Little Friend

Books by Helen Oyeyemi, John Patrick Higgins and Jennine Capó Crucet

Parasol against the Axe

By Helen Oyeyemi

Faber & Faber, £16.99

How do you review a novel that calls into question the subjectivity of art and memory? Subjectively, I suppose? “Parasol against the Axe” is a shape-shifting novel set in Prague (whereby the narrator is also intermittently the voice of the city). It follows a group of women in their forties on a hen weekend in that city. But to distil the novel down to the plot does little to capture its essence. Prepare yourself for a meta reading experience – there are emails within a novel (a novel that changes with each reading) within the novel itself. It’s a curious approach that may tickle the fancy of some avant-gardists but for me interrupted any sense of flow. Oyeyemi’s aphoristic prose is indeed witty, and thought-provoking, though it did little to move me. Brigid O’Dea

Teeth: An Oral History

By John Patrick Higgins

Sagging Meniscus, $16

For as long as the author can remember, he has had bad teeth. “Bad teeth,” he deduces, “are a social failing”. Higgins is on a mission to update his smile. His journey includes seven extractions, three root canals and more money than most authors earn on a book advance. However, Teeth is as much a memoir about teeth as it is the vanity and neuroses of a man in his middle age – and I say that only with affection. Embellished with the author’s own illustrations and a helpful glossary that includes terms such as “plump for a Pot Noodle” and “my pub piano teeth”, Teeth is snappy, irreverent and bolstered with heart. This is an author with a good reason to smile. Brigid O’Dea

Say Hello To My Little Friend

By Jennine Capó Crucet

Riverrun, £20

Al Pacino’s Scarface is so embedded in popular culture now that using it as a device for a novel, as Capó Crucet has, is inspired. And she goes further in this ambitious book, too, with a nod to Melville’s Moby Dick, by featuring an orca named Lolita as a character to counterpoint the main protagonist and Tony Montana-wannabe Izzy (Ishmael, geddit?). The story, set in Miami, is madcap, but also touches upon real-world issues: climate change, immigration, and ideas of identity within the “American Dream”. Capó Crucet is a wryly funny writer, and her riffs on Oliver Stone’s classic movie will carry any film fan along. Overall, though, the structure is unwieldy and the cast of characters undercooked. Capó Crucet’s excess cargo of crazy ideas sinks the story’s potential. NJ McGarrigle

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