RaveThe A.V. ClubIn his new book, Daemon Voices: On Stories And Storytelling, he shows he can also write brilliantly about writing ... Daemon Voices is full of...brilliant, boiled-down analyses of writing, storytelling, and the peculiar blend of inspiration and labor that goes into creating a successful novel ... Christianity, biblical stories, and original sin are through-lines of Daemon Voices, just as they are in the His Dark Materials series ... Fans of His Dark Materials will find plenty to enjoy, as Pullman often references the trilogy to demonstrate what one process of writing can look like—the collection of ideas, references, resources, and reactions that become a story. He also implores writers not to over-think it ... The overriding sense Pullman imparts in Daemon Voices is one of delight: delight in storytelling, delight in reading, delight in the entertainment and questions and lessons a good book carries with it. Daemon Voices is a wonderful distillation of decades of writing and thinking about what goes into storytelling. Like his best books, it has a richness of ideas in its wide breadth of topics and illuminating conclusions. Writers will savor its lessons. But it’s also a very enjoyable book to read.
R O Kwon
RaveThe A.V. ClubBig themes of religion, identity, and death swirl through the pages of The Incendiaries, but Kwon keeps her narrative grounded in the very human experiences of the young couple ... Sparkling, deliberate prose weaves the three characters together ... Kwon’s exceptional care with each character creates fully formed people who are nevertheless kept at a distance ... Phoebe may be entering a cult, and Kwon deftly enfolds her narrative to keep readers enticed until the last page. Phoebe’s Christian organization eventually sets its sights on the abortion debate, making its religious fervor feel especially specific to 2018. The potent promises of faith and love, though, give The Incendiaries a timeless quality.
RaveThe AV ClubSedaris has always written darkly comic material, but in Calypso he doesn’t try to find humor when discussing topics like his sister’s suicide or his mother’s alcoholism. Sedaris is more introspective than he’s ever been, skipping from humorous insights about growing up as one of six children to paragraphs that see him trying to understand why his sister killed herself ... Despite presenting a more reflective version of himself, Sedaris’ sharp observational skills and bone-dry humor are as strong as ever ... Calypso is the writer’s most personal book yet, but it’s still signature Sedaris.
RaveThe AV ClubIn this case it’s the journey, not the destination, that matters, and Pullman crafts a singularly thrilling adventure for his young hero to embark on. Malcolm and a compellingly complex adversary-turned-ally flee an evil man with a ghoulish dæmon while trying to understand the unknowable forces acting around (and sometimes upon) them. Theirs is a classic coming-of-age story set in the world Pullman brought lavishly to life in His Dark Materials ... The result is a story smaller in scope than anything in His Dark Materials, and presents an even more mysterious version of our world. It’s like the great flood sends Malcolm and his dæmon, Asta, in and out of multiple overlapping worlds, creating a fertile, enigmatic landscape to explore ... Even without the deep well of context of those other books of Dust, La Belle Sauvage stands on its own as a singularly beguiling work of fantasy. It’s sure to be devoured by readers young and old alike.
PositiveThe AV Club\"...like much of Sedaris’ deceivingly simple prose, the enjoyment in Theft By Finding comes not from its very basic conceit but its sharp observations and bone-dry humor ... By book’s end, Sedaris’ entries read like mini essays. They’re often as enjoyable as anything in Holidays On Ice and Me Talk Pretty One Day ... Diary entries shouldn’t be this good, but considering Sedaris’ output, it’s not surprising that this collection is a worthy addition to his name.\
MixedThe AV ClubThe first essay, the title of which is given to the book, addresses that exhausted, timeless question of motherhood. If that feels like a subject that’s been written about to death in the feminist blogosphere, don’t be fooled: Solnit’s brief essay is more thoughtful, probing, and powerful than the majority of content on the subject ... Solnit feels crucial in a way most other writers don’t. Feminism and the patriarchy are complex and mutating beasts, and it takes a steady hand and deep heart to get to the bottom of things. There are writers who struggle to express their bold ideas. Then there are writers whose ways with words aren’t matched by their storytelling. Solnit occupies the rare category of writer who presents her powerful, searing ideas in dazzlingly graceful language. The Mother Of All Questions is a joy of both form and function. It’s difficult to think of an equal.
RaveThe AV ClubLincoln In The Bardo is a postmodern masterpiece ... Saunders’ genius in Lincoln In The Bardo is the culminating effect of the disparate parcels of information that, taken together, create a spellbinding story of love and loss ... Saunders is best known for his satirical bite, but Lincoln In The Bardo is a deeper examination of life, explored through the dead, unable to move on for various reasons. He’s never written anything quite so poignant and moving as this story about death.
RaveThe AV Club\"Poetic and razor sharp ... Idaho shifts to his perspective, as well as the perspective of his first wife, Jenny, who we meet serving a 30-year prison sentence. Each point of view is imbued with a strikingly different perspective on the events that connect them. Each is powerfully psychological, as Ruskovich gingerly peels back their respective psyches, regrets, and dreams and each character’s undeniable urge to gaze backward ... Idaho is sad, but not despairingly so. Ruskovich’s prose is lyrical but keen, a poem that never gets lost in its own rhythm. Even as the plot can be seen to loosely hang over the murder, most of the chapters are more concerned with a Marilynne Robinson-like emphasis on the private, painfully human contemplation going on inside the characters’ brains. The result is writing as bruisingly beautiful as the Idaho landscape in which the story takes place.\
PositiveThe AV ClubThe rare alchemy of achingly powerful words that also induce fevered page riffling is in abundance in Harmony, Carolyn Parkhurst’s sumptuously written, eminently compelling novel about a family and its desperation. Readers will be torn between a desire to pause to admire a golden paragraph and the compulsion to hasten on to find out what happens next.
PositiveThe AV Club...signature Schumer through and through—a hilarious, brutal, and graphic read. Coming in book form is both a strength and weakness; writing lets Schumer be a little more intimate with her audience, going into asides and longer, more thematic material than works for stand-up and sketch comedy. But those are also where Schumer is strongest, and it occasionally feels like some of the material would be better suited to TV, in front of a live audience.
PositiveThe AV ClubBraverman avoids the common pitfalls of the 'finding yourself' genre by refusing to treat nature as a cure-all to what ails her, opting instead for ongoing growth and reconciliation, and never quite coming to firm conclusions, even by book’s end ... the understated writing making room for big events to pack a more powerful punch ... At times this narrative structure is confusing, especially in the opening chapters, before the reader is acquainted with Braverman’s history ... a strange, remarkable memoir.
RaveThe A.V. ClubFor all that this book can, and probably will be, broadly painted as about 'a woman with a spanking fetish,' there’s nothing so strange about a story of a woman coming to terms with her sexuality and her identity. Keenan’s excellent writing and humor make this a book enjoyable for fetishists and vanillas alike—especially if you like Shakespeare.