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Good on Paper Hardcover – January 26, 2016

4.4 out of 5 stars 14 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Ms. Cantor is unafraid of asking big questions explicitly, like whether fidelity — to texts or to people — is possible. The complicated details of Romei’s schemes and Shira’s past start to pile up and will satisfy lovers of plot, but the novel is at its strongest when Shira’s voice is loosely playful and ruminative.”
New York Times

“It is not often that a novel comes along that is laugh-out-loud hilarious and thought-provokingly philosophical. 'Good on Paper’ is both.”
Boston Globe

“In Good on Paper, Cantor creates a compelling vision of what love is. It's not a feeling but — like translation — an act: a willful opening of one self to another.

“Tantalizingly tinkers with storytelling novelties.”
Sam Sacks, The Wall Street Journal

“The comedy helps prevent the seriousness from shading into sentimentality. But what remains most powerful about this book is not the zaniness or the punning. Rather, it is how sincerely Cantor depicts what another poet, Wallace Stevens, called 'This vif, this dizzle-dazzle of being new/ And of becoming.'”
San Francisco Chronicle

“Rachel Cantor's debut...introduced her as an imaginative tour de force able to juggle the absurd with the poignant, the unbelievable with the necessary. With Good on Paper, Cantor does the same, and with just as much dexterity.”
Toronto Star

“An engrossing read and an invigorating subject of study...Ultimately, this is a story about stories, about the power of art to redeem both creator and viewer.
Dallas Morning News

“Rachel Cantor's madcap novel plays with words as it explores redemption, understanding ... There is an absorbing story here, and affectionate character development.
Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Cantor combines a detailed web of characters with her humor, carefully arranging the emotionally impactful moments as well as the wordplay and comical sense of domesticity...Cantor pulls off a well balanced and entertaining novel.”
—Electric Literature

“The miracle of a text moving from one language into another, the struggle to translate the languages of our own family to other people and to ourselves—these questions lie at the heart of the whip-smart and wildly moving Good on Paper. Rachel Cantor is masterful at creating characters who feel so alive we think for a moment that they could step right off the page and into our world. Her voice is one to celebrate.” 
—Laura van den Berg, author of Find Me

“A bustling tale of love, family, language, and flight, Good on Paper never fails to entertain us at the deeper levels, despite its lightness of tone. It is a vivacious, potent blend of the touching and the erudite, the garrulous and thoughtful, the playful and the tender.”
Jim Crace, IMPAC Award-winning author of Harvest

Good on Paper is full of invention and emotional generosity. It's also packed with Cantor's love of humanity and language. It's a delightful read.”
A.L. Kennedy, author of Day

“As Cantor's playful and smart novel unfolds, it's hard not to fall in love with her characters. Above all, it's a book for language-lovers, so heads-up word fiends.

“A dazzling book...With one-of-a-kind characters and brilliant insights on translation, this book will hit you in all your literary sweet spots.

“Cantor clearly loves her characters, and she shows true mastery of their inner lives...You'll want to reread the final chapters more than once, delighted anew each time by how well Cantor speaks our language. In this feat of a novel, knowledge is a tiny first step on the way to understanding.”
Kirkus Reviews, starred review

“Translation is a metaphor through which Cantor uses her considerable powers with language to refract larger questions about family bonds, storytelling, and letting go of fantasies of new life and waking up to the life that is yours.
—Publishers Weekly
, starred review

“[Cantor's] second novel, Good on Paper...sounds a bit different—but just as enticing.”
The Millions, Most Anticipated Books of 2015

Praise for A Highly Unlikely Scenario by Rachel Cantor

“A dystopian satire; a story about ­storytelling, believing and listening — ’A Highly Unlikely Scenario’ is ultimately a history of our own strange world.”
New York Times Book Review

“[A] dizzying fabulist debut.”
Washington Post

An io9 pick for the Essential Science Fiction and Fantasy Books of 2014

“[Cantor's] imagination is exhilarating — A Highly Unlikely Scenario will appeal to fans of sci-fi and people who just like to laugh.”
Cosmopolitan, 10 Books by Women You Have to Read This Spring

“Cantor’s first novel never takes an obvious turn when a stranger one might do and the result is a plot that bounces, soap-bubble like, above a world that is equal parts absurdity and whimsy…the whole thing has the air of a fable translated from a very foreign language.”

“Ultimately, more than incantations and codes, it’s family Cantor cares about. A Highly Unlikely Scenario is about just that: Familial wisdom and love lost and found and shared anew, finally, conquering all.”
Daily Beast

“A treat for those who like zippy sci-fi paced like the stories of Kurt Vonnegut.”
Time Out New York

“With publication of A Highly Unlikely Scenario, Rachel Cantor joins the ranks of authors who are able to turn philosophical concepts into whiz-bang plots, and make them funny as well. Throw in some family dysfunction, time travel, a librarian ingénue, and the possible destruction of the world, and you’ve got an adventure story replete with nerdy delights.”

“The book’s plot, which concerns a future where fast food corporations run the world, is deliciously weird enough to work in its own warped way, walking the line between straight fantasy and fiction.”

A Hall of Fame bestseller in The Millions

A Book Riot Must-Read Book from Indie Presses for 2014

“A heroic tale unlike any other: a novel that is not about a quest but about learning that the world—our world—is full of extraordinary, mysterious wonders.”
Kenyon Review

“This debut novel is a present to both sci-fi and humor fans alike.”
Barnes & Noble Book Blog, January indie books roundup

“In this roller-coaster debut, fast-food corporations rule the world and a peon customer-service worker has to save it… Cantor is in control of her material, and successful dystopian satire makes more sense while you’re lost in it.”
Heeb, Best Books of the Year

“Brooklyn-based writer Rachel Cantor has created a whole new world in her debut novel — a humorous and playful science fiction story."
Brooklyn Eagle

“Delightful… The sense of excitement in Cantor’s prose, which propels this familiar story of a few silly, frightened people braving their way through a maddening, baffling world, is what compels us to keep reading.”
The Rumpus

A Book of the Week pick from WORD bookstore on Largehearted Boy

“The great pleasure of such novels is the world-building, in which the author invents a new universe while playfully commenting on our own. And what Cantor does of this is great, her impish prose and dry wit perfectly suited to the task.”
The Independent (UK)

“An intrepid debut.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Cantor suspends disbelief and creates a loony world entirely of her own, which is terrifically funny and effortlessly enjoyable. This highly entertaining and adventurous tale will leave readers rooting for Leonard to save the world, with or without his coupons.”
Publishers Weekly

“[A] rambunctiously smart, pun-spiked, and sweet dystopian romantic comedy… Glimmering with ’signs and wonders’ and laced with satirical jabs at technological intrusiveness and deception, Cantor’s funny and charming metaphysical adventure and love story is a wily inquiry into questions of perception, knowledge, mystery, legacy, and love.”

“Cantor’s novel will be a great hit for fans of Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe. There’s a lot going on here, and all of it is amusing.”
Library Journal

“It’s as if Kurt Vonnegut and Italo Calvino have collaborated to write a comic book SF adventure and persuaded Chagall to do the drawings. Rachel Cantor’s cabinet of curiosities, A Highly Unlikely Scenario, is one of the freshest and mostly lively novels I have encountered for quite a while.”
Jim Crace

A Highly Unlikely Scenario is a joyful book, full of the energy of undiluted invention and the thoughtful imagination of a writer to watch. It’s a wild ride and much more – funny, intelligent and entirely pleasing."
A.L. Kennedy

“A sharp, witty, and immensely entertaining debut. Cantor writes with a satirical touch, but her vision of a world dominated by fast food conglomerates holds a ring of truth, and her skill in rendering complex and highly believable characters makes for an unexpectedly moving tale.”
Emily St. John Mandel

“Part Italo Calvino, part Ray Bradbury, A Highly Unlikely Scenario mixes philosophy, history, religion, humor, mystery and time-travel. In this extraordinary novel, Rachel Cantor explores questions of self-knowledge, true love and family, all while saving the world—and winning readers—in the past, present, and future.”
Hannah Tinti

“Cosmic and comic, full of philosophy, mysticism and celestial whimsy. A story of listening, of souls and bodies, that is at once both profoundly wild and wildly profound.”
Charles Yu, author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

“I didn’t know I needed a mystical Jewish Douglas Adams in my life, but Rachel Cantor is it, and her Guide makes me shep naches every time I turn a page. Buy this book, bubeleh! It will surprise you in ways large and small, and it will fill you with delight.”
Emily Barton, author of Brookland

About the Author

RACHEL CANTOR is the author of the acclaimed debut novel A Highly Unlikely Scenario (Melville House) and her short stories have appeared in The Paris Review, One Story, Ninth Letter, and The Kenyon Review, among other publications. Good on Paper is her second novel. Cantor was raised in Rome and Connecticut, and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Melville House (January 26, 2016)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1612194702
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612194707
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #616,264 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition
Shira is working as a temp, but while she has excellent translating and literary skills she goes from job to job and is now stuffing envelopes. She loves her daughter Andi very much. They're living with Ahmad, who's Shira's gay friend. He isn't Andi's real father, but he's her dad in any other way. They're a family. When Shira gets a request to translate a manuscript for the famous poet Romei she decides to take the job. It's difficult and Shira doesn't know if the work can really be translated. The harder she works the more her private life seems to be falling apart. She might have found love, but she can't act on it. The translation is giving her sleepless nights and Ahmad and Andi are ganging up on her. Will she be able to finish the manuscript and get her life back on track?

Good on Paper is a wonderful book, a story that I will remember for a very long time. I loved the Dante references. Shira's opinions about his work are fantastic. Romei is fascinating and I loved his character, the famous poet who received a Nobel prize and who's never actually present at all, but plays a crucial part in the story. Shira is intelligent and talented, but emotionally she's a bit of a mess. She's funny and I love the way Rachel Cantor portrayed her. Reading about her put a smile on my face over and over again.

If you've studied literature or are a translator you will especially love this book. There are so many great references, interesting remarks and clever thoughts in this story. I enjoyed it so much. Shira has a messy life and her inner thoughts plus the way she phrases things when she talks are brilliant. I can't praise this novel enough. It's one of those fantastic treasures that you only come across every now and then.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was a slow burn for me. It took a little while for me to get into it, but once I did, I fell so in love with these characters.

One note: these are not characters that you will particularly like. I cared about them and rooted for them, but these are still incredibly selfish people. Not bad, not at all, but people who aren't particularly good, either. (In short, they're basically just like most other people. They are deeply flawed and they don't seem to improve.)

This is a book for English majors and for people who love poetry. (If this isn't you, you'll probably still enjoy the book, and it's not like it'll be over your head...but I think it'll delight you more if those things apply to you.)
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Format: Hardcover
Shira Greene, our heroine, is a writer, translator and single mom living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, Seemingly out of the blue, she receives an opportunity to translate the work of Romei, a contemporary Romanian/Italian writer. This odd and unexpected turn in Shira's life leads to revelations both life-changing and literary. Not really a mystery, not a work of brilliant characterization, this is primarily a novel of ideas. It thrives on the parallelism between literature and life. A translator's "false friends" (words in another language that appear similar to one's own language but are quite different in meaning) can be paralleled by "false friends" in life. And so on.

Cantor has excellent control of her material, and one need not be a Dante aficionado to understand this book. Incidentally, her occasional ventures into Jewish culture and biblical studies are pitch perfect. Highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
I really enjoyed it. I have to admit that I didn't like most of the people in the book, though I liked the narrator and her daughter. Their relationship seemed fraught and believable, but others not so much. Still, the writing, the multi-lingual puns, the cross talk, the dialog all pulled me along from beginning to end, and there were many sentences where I had to hold the book at arm's length and say, "Whoa, great sentence!" Her use of words borders on the overwhelmingly inventive, yet stays readable, there's a fair amount of dense talk about the difficulty of translation, but it goes by quickly and adds to the feeling that, mo matter how strange the twists are, there's a core of reality of one kind or another here. I would call this a book for English majors: for people who care about words, and like a good story that's well told.

PS: Her first book is tremendously fun, worth checking out. I bought it because of a rave review in the NY Times and it was as good as the Times reviewer said.
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Format: Kindle Edition
Original review @ 125Pages.com

I half loved Good on Paper and I half loathed it. The main character Shira was so selfish I just could not get into her head. The writing was smart and sharp, but I could not get past the utter apathy Shira showed to anyone not immediately poised to help her. A temp worker who mooches off of her best friend, she gets the job opportunity of a lifetime, translating for a Nobel winner. While searching for the truth behind the words, Shira finds a truth to her own life, a truth that may have come too late.

Rachel Cantor can write, to that there is no doubt. The world she created was real and I could see the New York neighborhood as the characters strolled through it. The pacing was good, never dragging. The plot was solid and could have been amazing. The characters and the emotions are where this fell short. Shira was generally unlikeable, riding over everyone in her path and ignoring the needs of her daughter. The side characters were weak and let themselves be overwhelmed. There was no emotional tie in Good on Paper to help balance the frank unpersonable characters.

I have read fantastic reviews of Rachel Cantor’s work, so I went into this with such high hopes. And yes, she can write. But the downfall of Good On Paper was the lack of true depth in the characters and the lack of emotion in the writing. Cantor is smart and that comes across, but it seemed as if she was more focused on showing how intelligent she can make a character and less focused on character and emotional development. While I can see how others love her writing, I read to escape and that emotional tie is probably the most important part of a book for me, and Good on Paper lacked it.

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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