PositiveThe New York Times Book ReviewThough the book begins inauspiciously with stock portraits and lengthy exposition at the expense of robust dialogue—a problem common in narratives that rely too heavily on received history rather than authorial imagination—it improves markedly as the story advances to the present day, gaining heat and aesthetic acuity until, by the end, analogies are often striking and the emotion of the denouement well-earned ... this is a capable, highly readable book on a topic that deserves more attention ... Though superwealth and misogyny are ready subjects, Jell-O Girls is most interesting as an examination of the psychological sources of illness and the outsize fertility of unhealed trauma, which inevitably begets more trauma, creating a lineage of what seems like cellular-borne pain ... Rowbottom touches only briefly on Freud and conversion disorders, and this is an opportunity lost for both reader and author ... Though Rowbottom’s memoir is an earnest and laudable attempt to return us and her to wholeness, most will need to go further to bridge that most masculinist invention—the psyche/soma split—to regain the space that, generation after generation, has been made into a battleground: the female mindbody.
Ulrich Raulff, Trans. by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp
RaveThe New York Times Book ReviewIt’s a bold play, a kind of intellectual onslaught. Accordingly, this technique occasionally lacks elegance, so the knowledge presented can appear an aggregation of Raulff’s own erudition. But this is a stingy critique; Raulff mostly succeeds and succeeds remarkably. If thinking is the ability to get from point a to a distant point b, he has within this book proved himself a remarkably nimble, creative thinker a thousand times over. He uses a flair for web-thinking to connect seemingly disparate facts into fresh epiphanies on subjects that we might otherwise find overly familiar, presenting himself less as an authority than as an embodiment of intellectual curiosity. At his best, Raulff constructs not just painterly layers of complementary information but wreaths of interconnected facts ... It’s a powerful display of one writer’s willingness to train his mind with unusual care on our coexistence with an animal that has unduly borne both our 'physical and metaphorical burdens.' Our world needs more writers willing to do work of this kind, work that often produces little hope of money or fame, the reward for which must be the satisfaction of fastening together rich new connections before they are lost forever. Bravo to those unwilling to let history — whatever history is — slip away unnoticed. Bravo to Ulrich Raulff.