PositiveThe New YorkerLacey’s book, which is trimmed with photographs, historical data, collected interviews, and secondary sources, joins a recent spate of critically acclaimed novels that adorn themselves with the formal signifiers of nonfiction ... C. M. Lucca’s fictional biography makes up the entirety of Lacey’s novel. The result is not really a book-within-a-book but, rather, a book encased in the glistening film of a different title, author, and genre ... Lacey’s Christian Coup is not a new novelistic premise...but Lacey creates a particularly elaborate and polarized counterfactual world on its basis ... Lacey’s form skillfully evokes what her character Lucca is experiencing in the story itself: a reluctant disquiet and gnawing curiosity over the given material’s true source. And, to Lacey’s credit, I can’t remember the last time that I’ve read a recently published novel and amiably wondered if its narrative strategies were, in fact, completely legal ... Ossifies a sliver of bohemia as it already existed, preserving the basic provocations of the counterculture while evacuating the material conditions of the culture that it responded to. The novel’s conclusion is ultimately sorrowful: everything could change, and nothing would be different ... Perhaps all biography is built from that kind of earnest ventriloquism, that kind of clouded remembering. Ghosts appear in our mouths, confused and out of time. The widows stand vigil: writing, writing, writing.
Jessi Jezewska Stevens
PanNew York Times Book ReviewStevens’s version of events peels away from fact like forlorn wallpaper ... Even as the characters grapple with revolutionary possibilities, the novel’s stylistic choices suggest an author entranced by the language of power. Stevens mistakes the manufactured obscurity of our financial system as profundity, diminishing the emotional truths of her characters by relying on metaphors of market capitalism to explain their inner worlds. The reader is left alienated instead of moved or galvanized ... Symbolic to a fault ... Stevens hesitates to step outside of the inherited framework, even in an effort to repurpose its dialect. The alternatives to the status quo are presented primarily as self-destructive.
Clarice Lispector, tr. Stefan Tobler
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe entire book is only a fragment. (This is less abstract than it sounds: Aren’t we all born into the middle of someone else’s life?) ... As always, Lispector’s plot bows to her form. This shard of language — reflective, serrated — is about a woman finding endlessness in the early morning, a warm body, the empty sea ... On the surface, An Apprenticeship elegantly translated here by Stefan Tobler, is an acute romance, between Lóri, a suicidal elementary schoolteacher, and her withholding, esoteric crush, a philosophy professor named Ulisses. But it is also a spiritual treatise, a didactic dialogue between not-yet lovers ... Lispector unravels existential knots within the daily tangles of femininity ... Lispector’s writing is like glass: granular detail turned to liquid under impossible heat, and then hardened and crystallized into a wet, new thing.
RaveBookforumLockwood splits her novel down its center but never severs the connection between the two parts, like strands of river knotted at the same source. She says goodbye, but nothing leaves ... I’m not sure what reading this book would be like if I didn’t understand most of the references. But, of course, this is what novels do: I can read about a place I have never been, while others are reading about their hometown. The words are the same, and what they mean is different ... Writing about being online is a bit like writing about reading a novel, in the sense that it is language in concentric circles ... Lockwood not only follows the circles out to their youngest brim, she also returns to the point of contact that set them in motion, and then she pushes it further: not the ax, but the seed. I think she pulls it off partly because she is not trying to write about what the internet is or does, but how it feels. She has managed to write a book about how it feels to be online ... Ultimately, No One Is Talking About This is a stunning record of the hollows and wonders of language itself ... Chaos begets chaos, which somehow will beget coherence.
RaveBookforumCarson—legendary poet, classicist, heartbreaker—is known for her eviscerating ability to take myth and move it into a local hotel, without ever letting the divine implications of the story waver. Actually, Carson’s restaging only enlivens. She allows her ancient characters to stretch their legs, broaden their breath, after a long, crowded journey to the present ... Norma Jeane Baker of Troy takes the permanently doubled nature of womanhood seriously, as an emotional condition rather than a narrative device. We already knew there was more than one Marilyn ... Euripides took the dominant opinion that women are not really real literally, forgiving Helen by extension. Carson sits with this imposed unreality and its consequences, refusing purity by allowing her character to exist in multiplicity without accusing her of deceit ... The writing glows in...sections, wry, brutal, spacious.