PositiveThe Brooklyn Rail\"... Leading Men is expansive and also intimate, timeless, and intensely rooted in an era of film and literary celebrity that has today disappeared, not because we don’t read as much as we used to but conversely, because we read too much ... Leading Men is both a throwback to an earlier era of celebrity and also a reminder that this tension between the private and public self has not been resolved—it has only found new avenues in which to proliferate. Likewise, Castellani’s choice to shuttle between narrative past and present not only imbues this book with a pacing that plays on this celebrated notion of incremental reveals, but also bestows the story with the tragic reminder that our dreams for the future very often remain just that ... [the characters contain a] kind of complexity that remains utterly real to readers, that mix of ambition and ambivalence that so often suggests the self who remains unknown to us, the parts of us which we ourselves cannot account for ... [the book contains an] endearing exploration of the temporary pleasures of a life, of the particular permanence of a work of art, of the in-between fraught with apprehension and liminality, of the looking-back-on-a-life while one is in the midst of it...\
RaveThe Brooklyn RailJosé Olivarez’s debut poetry collection, Citizen Illegal (Haymarket Books, 2018), is a poetic assault on these state and cultural processes that continue to stamp out empathy and humanity within the rise of today’s migratory drift and its management by the state. Olivarez’s critique so often begins with his own self-inquiries, and much of this book can be read as both a theoretical rumination on language-as-discourse and a first-generation coming-of-age lyrical narrative ... Citizen Illegal moves best when it transgresses its own boundaries, moving from overly familiar moments...and towards something unexpected, pliable, unconstrained, as when Olivarez responds to another brutalization by the ICE by becoming wolverine...or when he moves from reimagining his own childhood to re-entering his mother’s ... Olivarez is keenly aware of the ways in which we, too, other immigrants and children of immigrants, are often implicated in the same structures that hold us down, forcing us to reckon with our own complacency, especially the structure of racism within Latinx/Latinidad communities ... If one purpose or promise of poetry is the reinvention of myth then we need to start by rethinking our own origin stories, the names we use and the ways we are represented and the ways in which we represent our community. Likewise, it is revealing that Olivarez ends his sprawling, startling debut on \'Guapo\' and its ritualistic observation and exultation of the body: \'… it is my new name. it is my old name. / it is my only name.\'