MixedThe Washington PostVacationland pauses at the strangeness of the ordinary, the bluntness of real-world circumstances. Hodgman is great at confronting the surrealism of adult life, and he is always finding his way back from his imagination to a stranger truth; reconciling his own fantasies with broader, more consistent realities — that means death, mostly ... Personal essay-style confrontations with privilege can, at their best, dig up new questions, propose new solutions — and at their worst, they simply fret. There are more new questions than fretting here, but the neurosis of comfortable people hardly changes whether they are in the beautiful city or on the beautiful coastline ... One discomfiting reality he emphasizes is that having money and security hardly gets rid of the fear of dying. For that, one might just need to plunge into Maine’s frigid waters.
RaveFull StopLeopoldine Core’s debut story collection, When Watched, attends to detail, and is made up of some stellar, often very short stories, and some just-alright, longer stories ...Core pays attention to her characters’ mental navigation of this incoherence instead of making Zeitgeisty representative claims. For her themes she’s chosen cohabitation, family, work, sex ... It isn’t just the details of daily, city life, but the fine kind of psychological filigrees of consciousness that’s also at work. At their best, Core’s stories convey the singularity and discreteness of experience.
RaveFull StopHowever, rather than focusing on any one idiot, this novel (Batuman’s first) investigates the particular idiocy of human ambition. Of youthful mishap. Of the relentless endeavoring to control or predict the course of our lives and identities ... In many ways, though, The Idiot, does map onto a prevailing mode in contemporary, of-the-moment fiction. The meanderings and marginality of a character in a large, impersonal, often bewildering order ...the book traffics in a very canny, very funny kind of academic parody ... Batuman, who studied comparative literature, is a great English deployer of a very Russian kind of parabolic storytelling ... Like a Russian parable, Batuman is interested in telling and reiterating the central fact of human inadequacy. Idiocy. But, drawing from a British tradition of novel writing (from Eliot to Austen to Dickens), she is also careful about balancing her judgement with a sympathetic sense of condescension.
RaveFull Stop... a powerful and often painful story, one that harkens to the novel’s original mantle of presenting a life in full, and the struggle of individuals against both social restrictions as well as their pasts.This is not a novel from life (or at least not explicitly so, like it is for the autobiographical fiction of those above) but it somehow feels like one. It could be said to render a great service and example to that model, namely imagination, the conceptual leap over one’s own direct experiences — and the invention of characters as opposed to narrators or personas ... The book, in its scope and size, uncovers something vital about that connection between adult life and duration, but it does that without appealing to a strictly mimetic relationship with duration or repetition itself. Rather than narrate characters making breakfast, or checking email, Yanagihara measures the business of their lives with the metric of love.