There’s no adequate metaphor for the process of writing: to write that metaphor would be redundant and cliché. But David Benioff may have pulled off the novel that explains writing as subtly as possible: as completely as possible. Benioff not only explains the process and necessity of a writer, he also (perhaps) explains his lineage. He pokes fun at writing: pokes fun at the classics. Look, I don’t expect poets and composers to be heroes, I just don’t like hypocrites. Lev Beniov is the son of a Soviet Jewish poet. He’s imprisoned with Kolya, and as they await execution, the secret police summon them to find eggs in Leningrad for the colonel’s daughter’s wedding. A nearly impossible task is better than death. Benioff’s characters embody necessity: at the end of any day, you want to be warm and fed. You’ll feel hungry all through this book. You’ll know that you’ve got more than you need. When a hot cup of tea becomes a life-saving animal, you’ll know what absolute vulnerability is. At the end of life, you want to be loved and not lonely. The loneliest sound in the world is other people making love.