PositiveThe GuardianIt’s an extraordinary novel, which doesn’t mean that I always liked it ... It’s an astonishing performance. Without the steadily cumulative effect of a linear story, Powers has to conjure narrative momentum out of thin air, again and again. And mostly he succeeds. Partly because he’s incredibly good at describing trees, at turning the science into poetry ... But there is a cost to all this plurality and intellectual energy ... All the big things happen suddenly. Characters die, from gas poisoning or suicide or strokes; marriages collapse; people get arrested. In a book about the wisdom of trees, the stories that shape human life tend, by way of contrast perhaps, to be overdramatic ... There is something exhilarating, too ... I found, while reading, that some of what was happening to his characters passed into my conscience, like alcohol into the bloodstream, and left a feeling behind of grief or guilt, even after I put it down. Which is one test of the quality of a novel.
Joyce Carol Oates
PositiveThe New York TimesIn general, Oates is dealing here with the academic world — professors and their kids, editors, writers, adjuncts — people who live in the provinces, on the outskirts of real success ... This is Oates’s real trick, that her formal games and realism tend to reinforce each other — they make the same case.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewThe happenstance nature of all this is carefully orchestrated. Sometimes Kelman’s carefulness shows through, a visible seam holding the plot together, but he compensates for this with the wonderfully observed slow accumulation of detail that makes up Murdo’s world — both inner and outer ... It takes discipline for a writer to stick to the commonplace so religiously, but over time that discipline pays off. The ordinary becomes the real, and as Murdo sets off to find that gig in Lafayette the casual descriptions of his journey become almost breathlessly anxiety-producing. There’s an element of wish fulfillment here that’s unusual in Kelman’s work, but he’s paid for it, as it were, in advance. And the novel’s ending is more than justified by Kelman’s means of getting us there. A kid is trying to overcome his grief without forgetting about it: a contradiction that serves more generally for what’s involved in being an immigrant, or in growing up. And Dirt Road is about all of those things.
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewKosinski is a slippery figure to write about, since the facts have gotten mixed up in his fictions. Accusations of plagiarism and dishonesty — and his and others’ defenses against both — have further muddied the waters. But all this confusion is really grist to Charyn’s mill. He’s not trying to tell the story straight ... Jerzy is a novel with a light touch that’s still capable of lifting heavy subjects. Charyn knows what he wants to do and knows how to do it. His prose has some of the rapid-fire but carefully controlled energy of Thomas Pynchon’s early novella The Crying of Lot 49.