RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewSpellbinding and atmospheric ... With its quiet, dreamy bending of reality and its precise depiction of many different strains of alienation, Ghost Music is an evocative exploration of what it means to live fully — and the potential consequences of failing to do so. Yu braids the mundane and the magical together with a gentle hand ... There’s something here of early Murakami’s graceful, open-ended approach to the uncanny, as well as the vivid yet muted emotionality of Patrick Modiano or Katie Kitamura. Like these skillful portraitists of alienation, Yu conjures a visceral in-betweenness where the worlds of matter and spirit meet in a shared, suspended space ... Ghost Music inverts the tropes of the ghost story, which often feature spirits acting out in the violent, passionate way of the living...instead drawing the familiar world of human life closer to the enigmatic realm of the dead.
RaveNew York Times Book ReviewThe fierce little machines found in the Taiwanese American writer K-Ming Chang’s first collection, Gods of Want...feel so unexpected: Each one is possessed of a powerful hunger, a drive to metabolize the recognizable features of a familiar world and transform them into something wilder, and achingly alive ... Chang pushes language into strange, roiling reversals, eroding its given meanings ... At times, the rhythmic, idiosyncratic nature of these transformations can feel somewhat repetitive, but the insistent quality of Chang’s aesthetic is a powerful gesture in and of itself ... Chang channels the churn, the precarity, the ambient disquiet and threat of disappearance that are part of the émigré experience into sinewy text that mirrors this deep fungibility. It’s a voracious, probing collection, proof of how exhilarating the short story can be.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewPart bonkers cosmology and part contemporary parable ... A creation myth viewed through the keyhole-size aperture of a single life ... Different modalities of love, and all the inexact, invigorating and frustrating ways in which they combine, drive the pathos of the book as well as its most phenomenal moments of exultation, moments where meaning crackles and flares ... The book’s plot is loose but sturdy: Like a fishing net, it stretches to hold more than initially seemed possible ... It is unsatisfying to summarize all these things: They happen with less color and less vitality in the retelling than they do on the page, where they are buoyed by a dazzling assortment of questions, curiosities and wild propositions that betray the author’s agile and untamed mind ... Pure Colour reaches farther and grabs at more diffuse, abstract material, rendering its world in a comparatively lower resolution ... But in doing so it brings into view a certain organic and ecstatic wholeness: bright splashes of feeling and folly, of grief and loss ... This book embraces the blissful and melancholy inevitability of being the type of person you are, and of allowing life to shape you in ways you can’t control or predict ... The category of the \'big book\' in literature can often seem monolithic: a fetish object telegraphing excellence, a genre represented often literally by door-stopper page counts, and by names so famous they hardly need to be mentioned again here. But there are certain books that possess a different strain of vastness, elliptical and elusive, the way the coiled interior of a conch seems to contain the roar of the sea. In these works, you sense the subtle expansiveness of an individual life ... Though Pure Colour is a slim volume, approximately the thickness of a nice slice of sourdough bread, it holds within it a taste of something that defies classification.
RaveThe New York TimesIn [Oyeyemi\'s] hands, the realm of lore and the so-called \'real world\' exert a gravitational pull on each other, resulting in unexpected amalgamations of Bluebeard and Yoruban folk tales, Tinder and talking dolls, and complex, unconventional characters who tug the trajectory of recognizable tales out of the ruts and grooves of a well-traveled road. With her newest novel, Oyeyemi ventures away from these familiar shapes, though not from the playful reinvention of genres and tropes ... The first half of the novel borrows its momentum from the train itself, barreling forward toward an unknown destination of unknown import, lurching back and forth between the interiors of eccentrically decorated train cars and the playfully enigmatic interiorities of the characters. Oyeyemi is a master of leaps of thought and inference, of shifty velocity, and the story’s long setup has the discombobulating quality of walking through a moving vehicle while carrying a full-to-the-brim cup of very hot tea ... The lure of real connection and real resolution, their transformative power turning an obscure object of pursuit into a steadfast counterpart, moves the cast of characters toward denouement in much the same way that a death motivates investigation in a locked-door murder mystery ... at the book’s end the story lands more Patricia Highsmith than Agatha Christie: a maze of identity and desire that has an ending, but not a solution. Every piece of the puzzle falls into place, but the picture is never made whole. Perhaps this is Oyeyemi’s point: To be at peace with the vagaries of human connection, you have to learn to find the wholeness in every part.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewGabbert draws masterly portraits of the precise, uncanny affects that govern our psychological relationship to calamity — from survivor’s guilt to survivor’s elation, to the awe and disbelief evoked by spectacles of destruction, to the way we manage anxiety over impending dangers. Even more impressive is her skill at bending crisp, clear language into shapes that illustrate the shifting logic of the disastrous, keeping the reader oriented amid continual upheaval ... Gabbert turns her attention to the blind spots and mistaken impressions that constitute our subjective experience of self and world, from false memories and phantom limbs to witch trials and compassion fatigue ... With its expansive curiosity and encyclopedic style, Gabbert’s book can make for unsettling reading, especially in a time of actual crisis ... The essays often seem uncannily to anticipate circumstances that the author simply couldn’t have known about: They have a clarity and prescience that imply a sort of distant, retrospective view, like postcards sent from the near future ... But I imagine Gabbert would offer an alternate explanation for this oracular effect. Increasingly, the threats and fissures that mark our reality are known, but this doesn’t make them any easier to comprehend. It’s only when a potential disaster turns actual that it becomes real to us — and in that moment it will still feel incomprehensible, impossible, unforeseen.
RaveVanity Fair[Moshfegh] is adept at crafting dark, compelling female characters who violate the rules of femininity ... It’s a sly refusal of the imperative to self-care, the opposite of leaning in ... Moshfegh’s protagonist is an unlikely revolutionary ... [My Year of Rest and Relaxation] serves as a reminder that there is something to life outside of the economic exchange of time for money and money for goods, even if that unnamed thing is obscure and perplexing and just a bit monstrous—particularly in a woman. Literature may not have all the answers, but it can show us the power and allure of saying \'No.\'
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewWhen Watched, Leopoldine Core’s first collection of short stories, dwells in the realm of the sparkling mundane, the type of human matter that is invitingly recognizable, the type of matter that you yourself have participated in or observed ...in the third person and unfolding almost in real time, Core’s stories have a voyeuristic quality, like peering through the windows of a ground-floor apartment as you walk by ...tart, muted tone of Core’s narrative voice has earned her comparisons to Mary Gaitskill, Jane Bowles and even William Burroughs, but these references don’t do justice to the intimacy and relative gentleness with which the author treats her group of modern, often millennial drifters ...a startling and elegant manifestation of the author’s insistence that gravity unfolds unwilled in the midst of regular life, a sort of miracle that can occur only when you watch, wait and observe.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...in New People, her captivating and incisive fifth book, Danzy Senna has crafted a tragicomic novel that powerfully conjures the sense of optimism once associated with future racial transcendence, even as it grounds that idealism in a present that bears more than just a family resemblance to the racialized past ... New People questions whether the notion of racial liberation truly offers a solution to the unfinished work of racial justice. It may also cause you to question whether completion is, in fact, a virtue.