cover image Cyclorama


Adam Langer. Bloomsbury, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-1-63557-806-5

Langer (The Salinger Contract) brilliantly braids 1980s America with the Trump era in his inventive latest. In a 1982 Chicago high school, rumors swirl about the inappropriate sexual conduct of the magnetic and troubled Tyrus Densmore, 43, who is directing a production of The Diary of Anne Frank, but they are dismissed by teachers and students alike. Student Eileen Muldoon thinks she saw Tyrus performing oral sex with a teenage boy, but decides she was imagining things because “sex is everywhere” for her now, from the porn mags in Tyrus’s office to TV sitcoms. Her classmate Judith Nagorsky also doesn’t think there’s anything abnormal about Tyrus, having observed “just about every member of the high school faculty ‘engage in improper behavior.’ ” Judith is cast to play Anne Frank’s mother and, in 2017, directs a revival of the play after allegations about Tyrus resurface and he abruptly resigns, while Eileen defends Tyrus and supports Trump (“It was one of those things you said in private, something that made you realize you had more power than people thought you did”). The novel handles Tyrus’s abuses of power in thrilling and unexpected ways, but even more captivating is how Langer uses the story of Anne Frank to magnify cultural, political, and personal conflicts (“In the show, Peter and Anne are in love and want nothing more than to fuck each other’s brains out,” Tyrus says. “But they never will because they’ll never get to be alone”). Readers will applaud Langer’s outstanding performance. Agent: Stephanie Abou, Massie & McQuilkin. (Aug.)