RaveThe New Yorker... contrasts in scale—individual and historical, intimate and epic—occur throughout the novels of Shirley Hazzard, whose writing, like her name, tends to begin demurely enough, all weak tea and lace curtains, but grows quietly comic, and then abruptly calamitous. Her characters know poetry by heart, believe in honor, and speak in epigrams. Their biographies are revised, drastically, by plane crashes and shipwrecks, fatal battles, and grave illnesses. They travel widely and suffer emotional devastation ... The sentences of shocking wisdom appear freakishly often. The intelligence is relentless. Hazzardians will read Collected Stories with impatient pleasure, reminded from the first page that, once they are through, they can start rereading the novels.
RaveThe New York Times Book Review\"Halliday’s novel is so strange and startlingly smart that its mere existence seems like commentary on the state of fiction. One finishes Asymmetry for the first or second (or like this reader, third) time and is left wondering what other writers are not doing with their freedom ... Halliday’s prose is clean and lean, almost reportorial in the style of W. G. Sebald, and like the murmurings of a shy person at a cocktail party, often comic only in single clauses. It’s a first novel that reads like the work of an author who has published many books over many years ... Halliday has written, somehow all at once, a transgressive roman à clef, a novel of ideas and a politically engaged work of metafiction. Asymmetry is extraordinary, and the timing of its publication seems almost like a feat of civics.\
RaveThe New York Times Book Review...a serpentine, craftily arranged novel that spans decades and county lines, with underplayed walk-on roles by the urban activist Jane Jacobs; John Lindsay, a former mayor of New York; and the French high-wire artist Philippe Petit, who famously walked between the Twin Towers in the 1970s ... Scott serves up the vice-ridden narrative with white-glove service. For a book so full of corruption, Careers for Women never reads like hackneyed crime fiction. She borrows the genre’s best aspects (pacing, stakes, excitement) and eschews its worst (gore, stilted dialogue, clumsy foreshadowing). The same could be said for her relationship to historical fiction, which all too often relies on period props and a confounding amount of sensual detail ... Scott’s prose can be subtle to the point of invisible — a reader won’t gasp at recognition or smile at very many unexpected similes. Her intelligence is more structural, more architectural even: The narrative is complex, its foundation is secure; there are no distracting lines, its surface is free of ornament.
RaveThe New RepublicMarina Keegan, a 22-year-old girl who died in a car accident just days after graduating from Yale University in 2012, is an embodiment of 'someone I feel sorry for' ... It is free of verbosity, of ambiguous language gussied up as brilliance. It doesn’t contain any banal insights delivered as revelation. There is no subliminal messaging to the reader about the flattering ways in which the author should be viewed ... Keegan’s fiction, which constitutes the first half of the book, is built around the kind of empathetic extrapolation that makes for all the best realism ... The experience of reading this book is extremely and uncomfortably sad. I can barely recommend it.
PanThe New York Times Sunday Book ReviewThroughout these personable essays, many of which first appeared online, we learn of Gay’s Haitian-American upbringing, the harrowing sexual assault she suffered in adolescence and her conflicted feelings about the civic responsibilities of being a black academic. But Gay squanders much of this intimacy on points more vague than topic sentences in SAT sample essays … This casual imprecision would be more forgivable if the book weren’t built around a fundamentally unconvincing perspective: that of the ‘bad feminist’ that Gay wants readers to believe she is. Yes, she shaves her legs and enjoys the melodies of misogynist pop songs. But her opinions and preoccupations, and every bit of hand-wringing she engages in, suggest a woman very much in tune with modern feminism.
RaveThe New York Review of BooksFinnegan’s treatment of surfing never feels like performance. Through the sheer intensity of his descriptive powers and the undeniable ways in which surfing has shaped his life, Barbarian Days is an utterly convincing study in the joy of treating seriously an unserious thing ... Barbarian Days is less an ode to independence than a celebration of deliberate constriction, of making choices that determine what you think about and who you know. Surfing demands intuition and familiarity with one’s surroundings but it does not allow for the perceptive disregard that so often accompanies deep knowledge. As Finnegan demonstrates, surfing, like good writing, is an act of vigilant noticing.