RaveThe ObserverThis intriguing study of our urge to make scale models is full of bizarre stories and poignant insight ... engaging and exhuberant ... In Miniature reads like an upmarket Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, and I did keep having to search the internet to make sure Garfield wasn’t fantasising ... Sometimes I paused just to marvel at a fact, or the implications thereof ... The moral seems to be that we’re all small, relatively speaking, which is perhaps why In Miniature is not only highly entertaining; it is also moving.
PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewHer prose, much like Salinger’s — her predecessor in philosophical post-adolescent neurosis — is sharp, dialogue-heavy and unadorned, written to be absorbed into the bloodstream quickly ... Part of the excitement of reading Rooney is seeing this old-school sensibility applied to what feel like acutely modern problems ... Rooney’s novels have the unusual power to do what realist fiction was designed to do: bring to light how our contemporaries think and act in private (which these days mostly means off the internet), and allow us to see ourselves reflected in their predicaments ... Normal People, even as it is almost physically impossible to stop reading once begun, feels in some ways like the slightly less impressive follow-up album by a beloved band ... It’s wonderful to hear the sound of Rooney’s voice on the page again, and the pleasures of her storytelling are even more immediate than in the first novel. But the book can also seem rushed and conventional in ways her debut did not ... the clarity of Rooney’s language gives way to clichés and not terribly convincing similes...as though the urgency of writing the story were so great that she was reluctant to pause to find the more perfect phrase.
PositiveHarpers...even in ideal conditions, Rivkin’s book was unlikely to be a definitive traditional biography. A poet and creative writing professor, Rivkin often filters his understanding of Twombly’s art and life through his own experience of grappling with it, focusing as much on the tantalizing ambiguities presented by the artist’s work as on the available facts. Given his relative lack of access to primary source material (and the gaurded interviews to which important figures such as Twombly’s son, Alessandro, did submit), another writer might have simply written a short, impressionistic appreciation or settled for a pithy portrait of the artist as an enigma sealed off by his posthumous handlers ... Instead, Rivkin combines these modes with that of a full-dress chronicle, recounting Twombly’s life with the biographical information he was able to dig up (most significantly from the archives of Twombly’s friend and sometime lover Robert Rauschenberg). Interspersed throughout, meanwhile, are close readings of the work, well-researched accounts of important exhibitions and milestones, the narrative of the author’s own engagement with the important sites of Twombly’s life, and his quixotic attempts to wrangle information from the living members of Twombly’s small circle. Though Rivkin is at times left to throw up his hands and admit that he won’t be getting to the bottom of this or that episode or painting, his book is nevertheless a valuable synthesis of what’s been said and written about Twombly, and the author’s lyrical analyses of Twombly’s paintings are both lovely and insightful ... Rivkin is often at his best navigating the complex territory of reputation formation, carefully tracking the reception of the MoMA show (aided by the rare profiles to which Twombly submitted in order to promote it) and the concurrent exhibition of Say Goodbye, Catullus[.]
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review\"First, it seems only fair to mention that those looking for a book about the enduring legacy of James Boswell’s great subject should look elsewhere. A mention of that Samuel Johnson does appear toward the end of Samuel Johnson’s Eternal Return, Martin Riker’s darkly inventive debut novel, as though to reassure the reader that she isn’t insane to wonder if the titular character would turn out to have some connection to the 18th-century lexicographer. He doesn’t, but, given the novel’s precipitous swerves, it would not have been shocking if he had ... At times, especially in the depths of...nightmarish sequences, I admired Riker’s audacity more than I enjoyed following his logic to its gruesome endpoints. The book is ingenious, but unsparing in its vision of a country populated almost entirely by selfish people in thrall to their vices and, more often than not, well on their way to being killed in automobile accidents. Maybe what I’m saying is that the truth hurts.
RaveThe New York Review of Books\"One of Eisenberg’s great innovations is in the real-time depiction of thought on the page, the banal revelations and asides that sustain us through otherwise intolerable days ... One marvels at the tonal tightrope Eisenberg walks, the adoption of the mock highfalutin internal monologue allowing for multiple levels of riffing ... There is, too, a sense of polyphony across the entirety of the collection. Though Eisenberg has said that she doesn’t write individual stories with the idea of their relationship to the others in mind, each of her collections has a cohesiveness that derives in part from her preoccupations, which echo across the pieces ... [Eisenberg] has few peers among contemporary story writers, and like those to whom she might be usefully compared (Alice Munro, Lorrie Moore, the late Mavis Gallant), her work has continued to expand and mutate over the course of her career... [her techniques] have only grown more sophisticated over time, resulting in stories that feel both architectural and organic ... One gets the sense, when deep inside an Eisenberg story, that she is pushing past her own understanding of what she knows, trying to find and identify the most difficult questions possible.\
PositiveBookforum... series of truncated, carefully carved vignettes ... The line between their games and real lives is frequently in question, and Torres captures this ambiguity from a child’s-eye perspective, depicting their world as wholly changeable and therefore terrifying ... The book’s only serious stylistic flaw is a tendency towards occasional \'lyrical\' overwriting and overstatement that makes certain themes more obvious than is necessary ... They’re animals; we get it. But this is a small annoyance.
RaveThe Paris ReviewDeWitt’s ruthless honesty about the sausage making of literary production is no doubt autobiographical ... But the generosity and humor of these stories soften any sense of personal grievance into something much more interesting and complicated. The stories are devastatingly specific, and yet they serve as broad parables about the inevitability of being misunderstood, both as an artist and as a person ... DeWitt captures the particular mix of sincerity and jadedness of the publishing world and of those whose job it is to be enthusiastic about highish culture in the face of periodic reports of its demise ... It’s probably not good for most writers’ sanity to spend a lot of time analyzing the cycles of hype, money, and fate that can dictate a career. But DeWitt has already done the work. One little look or two won’t hurt.
PositiveOpen Letters MonthlyFor Manhattan residents, current or past, the initial joy of reading Teju Cole’s Open City comes from pure, unadulterated recognition ...the approach that Cole will take throughout the book: a matter of fact, nearly fussy exactitude that attempts to fully situate the reader in Julius’s reality at all times ... What makes Cole’s book and style distinctive is the evenness with which he distributes his observations, the almost purely descriptive consistency with which the narrator treats street scenes, conversations, memories, and even emotions ... When he combines his observations about the city with a piece of historical or cultural insight, the effect is transformative, and Cole’s facilities as a prose writer are on full display.
MixedThe GuardianThe Absolutist is another wartime story, but this time it's the first world war. It depicts a relationship between two soldiers, Tristan Sadler and Will Bancroft, the latter of whom gravitates towards being the most extreme form of conscientious objector, refusing any role at all in the campaign: an absolutist ... With Williams, that sort of thing would have been followed by an amusing lurch into the demotic, but The Absolutist contains no humour whatsoever ... There are references to 'jokes and japes' among the men, but none is adduced. In fact, the whole book felt to me numb, generic ...will undoubtedly work for some readers but I felt it was better suited to a short book for children than a full-length novel for adults.
PositiveThe Financial TimesIt did keep occurring to me that it’s easier to follow Harford’s prescriptions if you’re rich and famous, so that unpunctuality, or a no-show, might only add to your mystique rather than getting you sacked. For Arnold Schwarzenegger, apparently, 'appointments are always a no-no,' which is easy to say with a line of people queueing outside your door. But I know Harford is fundamentally right, and I am proud to say that I have so far managed not to file this thoroughly enjoyable book on my shelf under 'H' in non-fiction.