MixedThe AV ClubShifting between \'we\' and \'I\' throughout the text, P-Orridge’s first-person voice is theatrical yet accessible—one moment they’re calmly relaying the pleasures of eating unleavened bread with honey, the next they’re describing Edwardian ghosts walking out of their squat with flashlight-under-the-chin relish. The memoir clocks in at 350 pages, which doesn’t seem like nearly enough space to cover P-Orridge’s life and career ... For someone who has written moving passages about collective effort and the need to question convention, P-Orridge was awfully fond of the \'great man\' theory when it came to making art. While P-Orridge is right to feel proud of themself, considering the depth and breadth of their accomplishments, the self-aggrandizement gets wearying and at times absurd ... Forget sympathy—this devil could use a little humility.
RaveThe A.V. ClubMacGillis doesn’t spend much time trying to contextualize or get inside the head of the richest man on Earth; Fulfillment is much more interested in exploring the vast infernal machine Bezos has constructed and in following the personal journeys of Americans caught up in its gears ... MacGillis’ skills as a journalist are on full display in Fulfillment, which gracefully interweaves the personal histories of people trying to get by in what the writer aptly calls \'the landscape of inequality across the country\' with an account of the big-picture events and political/market manipulations that sculpted that terrain ... Like any good detective, MacGillis does a thorough dusting for those prints and outlines the (sometimes literal) bodies in chalk as part of his investigation into how Amazon has changed America ... MacGillis is able to compress 131 years of labor history, tense race relations, white flight from Baltimore, the collapse of manufacturing in America, and the devaluation of blue-collar work through the point of view of a former Bethlehem Steel employee working at Sparrows Point’s Amazon fulfillment center ... a very information-rich text, and it can take awhile to sift through all the data and historical tidbits. It is also, to be blunt, a dispiriting read. While there are moments of effective resistance described in the book, it doesn’t offer a hopeful vision of the future. For folks who are already burnt out on doom-scrolling and quarantine-induced existential dread, this book may hit you like a pallet full of back-breaking straws. But the sober, clear-eyed analysis and emotionally involving stories it provides are worth pushing through the “shit sucks” bleakness of it all. You can’t change anything until you see it for what it is. And Fulfillment is a fantastic microscope: It’s not its fault that the slides it’s showing us are so hard to look at.
Mariana Enriquez, tr. Megan McDowell
RaveThe AV ClubThe short stories of Argentine author and journalist Mariana Enriquez are seeing machines—lenses that throw the uglier side of the human condition into uncomfortably sharp focus. She shows us horrors (both historical and otherworldly) that the naked eye doesn’t want to see ... Characters in Enriquez’s stories aren’t poor; they’re witnesses to poverty ... What makes Enriquez’s fiction so affecting is how grounded the world that these phantoms pass through feels ... These characters are just trying to maintain and cope with an existence that’s precarious enough without having to deal with dead things and spirits, too ... The people in Enriquez’s fiction are exhausted, horny, resentful, ambitious. Most often they’re women just trying to take charge of their own lives and break free from the chauvinistic society that often poses a greater threat to them than the specters do ... Another running theme that Smoking In Bed shares with Enriquez’s previous collection is how her characters’ inner and outer lives are shaped by historical traumas. The disappearances of the Argentine junta crop up across many of these stories. Authority figures can’t be trusted: The cops are violent and lazy, the social workers are overburdened and unsupported, and the soldiers are just looking for an excuse to ruin lives ... If this all sounds unbearably heavy, it should be noted that Enriquez’s prose is full of enough wit, lyricism, and goosebump-inducing creepiness to make these stories page-turners.
PositiveThe A.V. ClubLethem isn’t interested in writing a grandiose good versus evil story ... The Arrest is more interested in asking questions about how an egalitarian community can continue to exist when someone won’t play along. How does equality survive in the face of unchecked ego? Lethem doesn’t make any direct allusions to our (current) commander-in-chief, but it’s hard not to see Trumpian qualities in Todbaum—a man whose desire for attention is all-consuming ... Lethem doesn’t hide his homages. The Arrest is a post-apocalyptic novel that’s self-aware of its subgenre’s tropes. These are characters who’ve watched The Road, after all.
PositiveThe AV Club... showcases a darker side to [Alam\'s] writing ... Impending doom hangs over Alam’s prose like power lines—their humming ever-present even during the book’s brighter, more contented chapters ... Alam paints a compelling picture of a world where all the old ways of being seem to be coming undone, and asks us to watch six people try to come to terms with it. While not quite apocalyptic in its subject matter, it is a book about upheaval on a personal and grand scale. For those of us who are dreading the future, Leave The World Behind can be hard to swallow at times—but the prose is so good it makes the bitterness go down smooth.
RaveAV Club... dense and illuminating ... What makes Wagnerism such a challenging and rewarding read is how Ross comes to terms with that influence ... Ross paints a picture of Wagner that complicates his image as fascism’s favorite composer ... Over the course of more than 700 pages, Ross covers a tremendous amount of ground—touching on the Russian Revolution, the birth of cinema, both World Wars, and a who’s-who of artistic and philosophical heavyweights ... mercifully light on the music theory terminology that made The Rest Is Noise an occasionally frustrating read for those of us who couldn’t identify a tritone by ear if you put a gun to our heads. And while Ross does offer a lot of biographical information and anecdotes about Wagner, he’s careful not to psychoanalyze him or make excuses for his subject’s major failings ... doesn’t advocate for separating the art from the artist. With an artist whose legacy is as confusing and complicated as Wagner’s, that kind of surgery is impossible. Which Wagner do you remove? Ross makes this point throughout the book: There is no definitive Wagner—he is a prism through which so many different artists and thinkers refracted their own light.