MixedNew RepublicTillman offers her story in part as a cautionary tale, in part as a variation on this familiar if nebulous tale ... Tillman isn’t the type of writer you might expect to take something so domestic, so personal, so logistical, as family caregiving for her subject, and she admits that writing Mothercare didn’t come naturally ... Nor is Tillman’s style given to lucidity or grounded details ... As the book progresses and the Tillman family settles into whatever routine is possible in the circumstances, Tillman’s reflections become more circular, mimicking, perhaps, her own experience ... In an emotionally flattened, repetitive style, Tillman alternates between resignation, frustration, resentment, regret, feeling bored to tears, fed up ... As understandable as it may be to repress or forget painful moments experienced under strain, it is the task of the memoirist to at least try to unearth the particulars. Ultimately, with all its elisions and gaps, its gnomic reflections, the book feels like it never overcomes Tillman’s ambivalence about the topic ... Tillman recognizes the narrative possibilities...but fails to fully inhabit or develop them.
PositiveThe New RepublicThe intensity of his torment as he contemplates the end of his life is matched by a sense of bewilderment at his predicament ... Antrim challenges some of the received wisdom about suicide: that it is a plan put into place, willed into being, as a means of escape ... a starker and more meticulous book [than Antrim\'s novels], an attempt to write about suicide without any of the consolations of that style ... Antrim isn’t interested in the philosophical discourse on suicide—Camus’ existentialism, or Schopenhauer’s inquiries into ethics—but in the concrete, moment-to-moment experience of being suicidal. At times his account has an enumerative quality, detailing the sequence of minor events ... The effect is that of a disoriented individual trying to stay grounded in reality, to get a grip ... the book has a looping, discursive quality. To help his reader understand his suicide’s own particular history, Antrim moves, often within the same paragraph, between his present circumstances and his past, when he so often found himself prey to the dysfunction of his parents ... The meticulousness of his account, its palpability, and the way it’s projected onto us, his readers, helps us feel what he is feeling ... Antrim’s appeal to readers is a call for fellowship, and for embracing suicide’s contradictions.
PositiveThe New RepublicA bit of a throwback. A memoir of being diagnosed and living with Crohn’s disease, Miller’s book offers a didactic narrative, in Hawkins’s taxonomy, or a questing one, in Frank’s. Hers is one of triumph, if not restitution ... Miller presents her first experience with Crohn’s as an expression of good faith to her readers. She’s willing to be vulnerable, revealing many painful episodes in her life, from the hopeless moments of her illness to the other traumas that haunt her: her parents’ abusive marriage, her father’s alcoholism, a sexual assault by a family member, and her abusive long-term relationship with an addict. That she is willing to admit that she never leaves home without spare underwear contributes to gaining her reader’s trust: She is not trying to paper over her illness’s indignities ... Instead, Miller attempts to convert the ugliness and pain of her experience into something useful—for herself, but also for others ... That change, and coping with it, may be an ongoing, fluid process, but from the beginning, Miller projects a sense of resolution. The form of the book presupposes this redemption: Each chapter begins with an episode from Miller’s life, then segues into the lessons she drew from it ... Though Miller’s experience is with Crohn’s disease, she addresses her book to all sufferers of chronic illness. She gives advice on how to advocate for the best care, how to communicate your needs and set boundaries, and how to readjust your new identity as the sufferer of a chronic illness ... Her advice is empathetic but pragmatic, avoiding the existential quandaries that chronic illness presents ... That ambiguity, Miller acknowledges, can prevent resolution. Indeed, although her illness is chronic and therefore inherently unresolvable, she allows herself the arc of resolution, as though she had been sick and now is cured.
Mary M. Lane
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review... a scrupulous account of Hitler’s abiding obsession with art and Germany’s cultural patrimony that set the stage for the Gurlitt gambit ... The narrative can sometimes feel meandering, in particular her detailed account of the art scenes of the interwar years and Grosz’s biography. What’s more, her insistence that Hitler always saw himself as an artist as much as a political leader reads as credulous to the Führer’s calculated self-presentation. But she makes a convincing, full-throated case for the German government to amend its laws and practices regarding looted property.
PositiveThe New York Times Book Review\"Dobbs weaves the tales of their declining fortunes with a carefully researched account of American attitudes and policies toward Europe’s Jewish refugees ... What’s most chilling about Dobbs’s book is how his account of the early years of World War II echoes our politics today ... When current policies and opinions so closely resemble those held during Hitler’s early days, one wonders, too, if the moral clarity of \'never again\' may have been fleeting. In raising those questions, Dobbs’s book provides a glimpse of how we may be judged by future generations.\
PositiveThe New YorkerIyer is known primarily for his travel writing, his erudite essays on literature, and his wise, restrained accounts of his Buddhist-inflected striving for stillness and contentment. But memoir is an equally exquisite aspect of his œuvre ... Even in his daily life, playing Ping-Pong with neighbors, he is a consummate tour guide, knowledgeable of his surroundings yet alert to all that might strike foreign eyes as unexpected or inexplicable ... To my relief and pleasure, Iyer seems just as enchanted and enthralled by [his wife] Hiroko as he was in [his earlier book] The Lady and the Monk ... In the autumn of his life, Iyer remains alert to beauty as well as to loss, but his book is replete with a quiet assuredness, a knowledge that he and Hiroko have found the kind of love that endures.
Esme Weijun Wang
RaveThe New Yorker\"The Collected Schizophrenias is not a memoir, nor does it tell a linear story about the author. Wang prefers to use her own experience as a point of departure for philosophical inquiry ... The very fact of her book, she seems to assert, is proof that she can rise above her limitations ... While reading The Collective Schizophrenias, I often thought about the toll that writing it must have taken on Wang, physically and mentally, and the bravery it took for her to do it ... \'Ritual, my therapist told me later, would help, but it was not the solution; there was no solution.\' There was no solution—this is the level of uncertainty, even hopelessness, that Wang lives with. And yet she perseveres, however imperfectly. It’s Wang’s ability to reconcile these opposing realities, to allow them to persist in contradiction, that feels most radical about her approach to being sick.
MixedThe New York Times Book ReviewIt’s true that Friedländer is not the most introspective memoirist. In the whole of this book, he refers only cursorily to his two marriages and his three children, with whom he never discusses his own childhood ... Friedländer omits details of his thought and research process — what documents he uncovered, how his argument came together — which might have offered readers greater insight into his scholarship. And his retelling can feel desultory at times rather than modest. Toward the end, the book reads like a litany ... His inner life may simply be of less interest than his public life, of which there is much to be proud.