Anthony Marra’s prose dances a tightrope between poetic eloquence and tedious extravagance. Often it charmed me with metaphors one had to stop and celebrate; just as often I found myself falling asleep on a long train ride composed of parallel constructions or lists or rambling similes. The narrative was more brutal than anyone I personally know would use the words “enjoy” or “become absorbed by” to describe reading it. I wanted to put it down. Never having killed or tortured anyone myself, I’m not prepared to say it wasn’t realistic. I didn’t put it down. In fact, A Constellation was so ironic in its tone, I had great difficulty accepting the author’s attempt to shape it at the last minute into an archetypal comedy. Not fair. Not good enough to simply say this or that will happen seven or ten years in the future, when everything that leads up to the conclusion points to there being no future at all for either of the survivors. I have no quarrel that the book is brilliant. Nor is the story unimportant in any sense. It was not an easy read, but I’m sure Marra would counter: it’s not an easy century to live in.