PositiveHyperallergicCommute is by no means a narcissistic or self-involved work. Instead, it’s a meditation on Williams’s sense of self as a sober person after a long struggle with alcohol abuse and as a rape survivor. It’s also a very visual memoir, as she renders her discomfort through physical details ... Williams’s Commute [is] more of an elegy to her past self and her addiction, which she acknowledges with neither condemnation nor glorification ... Using a day in her life to frame the story ties it together more neatly than a standard memoir, but it also opens to the possibility that a new day can jumpstart another trip down memory lane.
MixedHyperallergicThe book’s tone is similar to that of Ling Ma’s Severance; both combine millennial (or simply self-obsessed) ennui with decay: the Berg, for example, is overrun with mold, and things constantly break down, making life there seem precarious. However, Oval lacks the oppressive ick-factor of Ling Ma’s novel, and expectedly so: the plague-ridden New York of Severance is more menacing than a bland Berlin’s rule by megacorporations ... The tragically beautiful millennial brainiac with an eating disorder is getting to be a tired shtick. It’s unclear whether Wilk is condescending or sympathetic to her narrator. I hope it’s the former ... Wilk’s writing is strongest in the scenes set in clubs or at art shows, where everybody is based on a host of insufferable tropes. However, it’s hard for the novel survive on satirical interludes alone, and her attempt to combine satire, dystopia, sci-fi, and millennial ennui feels too tightly packed for a book that is less than 350 pages. The raw material is strong; Oval could have worked well as a TV adaptation or trilogy, developing the plot in book one, the grotesquely pathetic characters in book two, and tying everything together in book three, culminating in what is already a cynical, apocalyptic ending that layers destruction with reflections on the housing market. Millennial ennui–fueled, post-apocalyptic fiction might not have reached full maturity as a self-standing literary genre. However, if literature is, indeed, headed in that direction, Oval is surely a seminal text, my personal quips notwithstanding.
Josh Frank, Tim Heidecker, & Manuela Pertega
MixedHyperallergic\"A sense of marvel persists throughout the book. Introducing the graphic novel is a childrens’-book-like narrative — meaning, slender blocks of texts with elaborate illustrations adorning either the margins or the lower half of a page — detailing how Dali came to America and became friendly with Harpo Marx ... The pages illustrated by Spanish artist Manuela Pertega are, for lack of a better term, frame-worthy ... Even though the writers Frank and Heidecker are witty and irreverent while making sense of both Dalí’s worldview and the Marx brothers’ dynamic, their text interrupts, almost disturbs the sheer beauty of Manuela Pertega’s work. What’s written on the page, in all its screwball and vaudevillian glory, can be quite overwhelming to the reader, making the choice, as their eyes focus on text or image or design, tricky and exciting.\
RaveHyperallergic\"Rock Steady is pragmatically structured around specific topics, which only occasionally are accompanied by witty narrative segments. Still, the humorous narratives can be the best part ... Aside from her illustrations, Forney’s writing style gets her message across: she does not coddle her readers, nor does she overwhelm them with complex medical terminology ... Still, even without a gripping narrative arc, Rock Steady achieves its goals in a brilliant manner. It might not be engrossing, but it will be easy and comforting to consult for some issue-specific advice and relief.\